In An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, originally published in France (Tentative d'épuisement d'un lieu parisien) in 1975, Georges Perec notates the comings and goings from a couple of cafes, a bar tabac and a bench in Place Saint-Sulpice over three days in October 1974.

Georges Perec reading the accompanying book as he listens to Richard Wagner's 'Ring Cycle' in 1972 (photo by Christine Lipinska).

Here is a short extract from the book-

Small poodle-type dog.

A sort of double of Peter Sellers, with a very pleased expression on his face, walks by the cafe. Then a woman with two very young children. Then a group of 14 women coming from the rue des Canettes.

I have the impression that the square is almost empty (but there are at least twenty human beings in my line of sight).

A postal van.

A child with a dog

A man with a large "A" on his sweater

A "Que sais-je?" truck: "La collection 'Que sais-je' a réponse à tout [The 'Que sais-je' collection has an answer for everything]"

A spaniel?

A 70

A 96

Funeral wreaths are being brought out of the church.

It is two thirty

A 63, an 87, an 86, another 86, and a 96 go by.

         Georges Perec in 1976

On her blog When Is A City, Christina Juhlin selects some quotes from Georges Perec on writing urban and ordinary life here.


more from paris

                                         Mina Loy, 1917 (photo by Man Ray)

Mina Loy wrote two pieces on Gertrude Stein. A few decades ago now, I read Gertrude Stein in The Last Lunar Baedeker, a selection of Mina Loy's writings edited by Roger Conover and published by the North American poet and photographer Jonathan Williams' press The Jargon Society, in the UK in 1982. You can find that lengthy piece here.

              Cover of 'Stories and Essays'. Mina Loy,1905 (photo by Stephen Haweis)

Now, in Stories and Essays of Mina Loy edited by Sara Crangle, published by Dalkey Archive Press in 2011, there is a shorter piece on Gertrude Stein. Mina and Gertrude met in Florence sometime around 1910 or 1913, and became friends. This piece is Mina Loy's introduction for Gertrude Stein (originally written in French) for a Paris salon run by US expatriate Natalie Barney in 1927.

Please click on the images to enlarge them. (The French original follows the English translation). Please excuse the wonky pages.

                                          Mina Loy, 1957 (photo by Jonathan Williams)


The Bois bores me

Hope Mirrlees : Collected Poems, edited by Sandeep Parmar has been published by Carcanet in the U.K. It has a great Introduction and extensive notes on the poems.

Hope Mirrlees was born in Kent in 1887. She grew up and was educated in Scotland and, in 1910, went to study classics at Cambridge, where she met her companion, Jane Harrison. She moved to Paris in 1922 to live with Jane Harrison at the American University Women's Club in Montparnasse. Jane died suddenly from leukaemia in 1928. Hope Mirrlees moved, in the 1940s, to South Africa and didn't publish again until 1962. She died in England in 1978.

Even though it was first published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press in 1919 I didn't read Hope Mirrlees' long out-of-print PARIS - A Poem until ninety years later. It is experimental, unlike her other poems which are conventionally organised into left-justified stanzas. The late Virginia Woolf scholar Julia Briggs called PARIS - A Poem “modernism’s lost masterpiece, a work of extraordinary energy and intensity, scope and ambition.”

                                       Please click on the images to enlarge the extracts

As I've said, PARIS - A Poem has been out of print for a very long time. It could only be found as a pdf file on the web here. Now, it's included in the Collected Poems and Mike Tortorello's Pegana Press has published a limited edition of the poem. According to him Paris - A Poem influenced T.S.Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf. My poem American Memories, Melbourne was directly influenced by Hope Mirrlees. You can scroll down to the end of this post to read it.

                                       Pegana Press Limited Edition
Hope Mirrlees with Lytton Strachey and others at Ottoline Morrell's house Bloomsbury,around 1930.

Philadelphian novelist and biographer of Hope Mirrlees (a limited edition), Michael Swanwick, has annotated PARIS - A Poem.

Here is my poem influenced by Hope Mirrlees' PARIS - A Poem. It was written in late 2009.(Click on the title for a full size version).

American Memories, Melbourne