Chance and One Author’s Exploration of Extremism and Corruption

Jerusalem

A skeptic at heart, I’m not one to believe in providence or good luck but whenever I’m in Paris, the number of happy coincidences I experience seems improbably high. For example, last December, after visiting an exhibit of Honoré Daumier’s 19th-century farcical Parisian caricatures, I failed to find a book…

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35 Sensational Reads for the Francophiles on your Gift List

Love books

If you’re like me, you enjoy giving books as presents. A couple of years ago, it occurred to me to share a list of my favorite sensational reads related to France. I’ve updated the list in time for the holiday season. My latest entries are denoted by **. Don’t be…

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A Passionate Plea to Destroy the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower under construction

Mention Paris, and people from around the world immediately conjure a mental image of the Eiffel Tower. Every year, 7 million visitors buy tickets to reach its upper levels where they can enjoy a breathtaking view of the ancient capital. Back in 1887, however, as construction of the monument was…

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The Ultimate Hoodwinkery, The Crook Who Sold the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower circa 1900

Historians claim that hanging on a wall of Victor Lustig’s Alcatraz cell was a postcard of the Eiffel Tower. Scribbled atop the iconic scene were the words “vendue pour 100 000 francs“. Lustig, a lifelong criminal who by age 20 had honed his charlatanry to P.T. Barnumesque acuity, was sentenced…

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A Son at the Front, Informative Fiction Behind the Battlelines

WWI Battle Scene by Chartier

I recently read A Son at the Front, by Edith Wharton, the first woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Wharton, the daughter of wealthy New York aristocrats, lived in Paris during World War I. Throughout the conflict, she dedicated herself to France’s defeat of the Germans. She volunteered…

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Arab of the Future, Classic Literature Masquerading as Comics

Riad Sattouf

Last month, I finished reading the 6th and final book in the graphic novel series, L’Arabe du futur, by Riad Sattouf. Every volume of this autobiographical bande dessinée has been a bestseller in France and translated into over 20 languages. Sattouf, whose mother is French and father is Syrian, zigzagged…

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Video of My Japanese Odyssey and How to Raise a Japanophile

Hanging Orchids

This summer I had the rather surreal and surprising experience of traveling in Japan. The surreal aspect of my trip might well have something to do with the 13-hour time difference coupled with Japan’s near-futuristic embrace of technology. I say surprising because my expedition to the land of the rising…

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