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Paris in the Fifties

Karnow, Stanley

294 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0812931378 / ISBN 13: 9780812931372
Published by Random House, NY, 1999
Used Condition: Near Fine Soft cover
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About this Item

The next best thing to being in the fabled Paris of the fifties is to read Karnow's memories of it". 352 pages; small crease on rear cover; 5th printing Size: 8 vo. Bookseller Inventory # 103410

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Paris in the Fifties

Publisher: Random House, NY

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:Near Fine

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


In July 1947, fresh out of college and long before he would win the Pulitzer Prize and become known as one of America's finest historians, Stanley Karnow boarded a freighter bound for France, planning to stay for the summer. He stayed for ten years, first as a student and later as a correspondent for Time magazine. By the time he left, Karnow knew Paris so intimately that his French colleagues dubbed him "le plus parisien des Américains" --the most Parisian American.

Now, Karnow returns to the France of his youth, perceptively and wittily illuminating a time and place like none other. Karnow came to France at a time when the French were striving to return to the life they had enjoyed before the devastation of World War II. Yet even during food shortages, political upheavals, and the struggle to come to terms with a world in which France was no longer the mighty power it had been, Paris remained a city of style, passion, and romance.

Paris in the Fifties transports us to Latin Quarter cafés and basement jazz clubs, to unheated apartments and glorious ballrooms. We meet such prominent political figures as Charles de Gaulle and Pierre Mendès-France, as well as Communist hacks and the demagogic tax rebel Pierre Poujade. We get to know illustrious intellectuals, among them Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and André Malraux, and visit the glittering salons where aristocrats with exquisite manners mingled with trendy novelists, poets, critics, artists, composers, playwrights, and actors. We meet Christian Dior, who taught Karnow the secrets of haute couture, and Prince Curnonsky, France's leading gourmet, who taught the young reporter to appreciate the complexities of haute cuisine. Karnow takes us to marathon murder trials in musty courtrooms, accompanies a group of tipsy wine connoisseurs on a tour of the Beaujolais vineyards, and recalls the famous automobile race at Le Mans when a catastrophic accident killed more than eighty spectators. Back in Paris, Karnow hung out with visiting celebrities like Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, and Audrey Hepburn, and in Paris in the Fifties we meet them too.

A veteran reporter and historian, Karnow has written a vivid and delightful history of a charmed decade in the greatest city in the world.


Years before winning the Pulitzer Prize for his definitive history of the Vietnam War, Vietnam: A History, Stanley Karnow lived in Paris as a young reporter. The man who was later to be renowned for his thorough research and crisp prose had to begin somewhere, and Karnow had the incredible good fortune to make his way as a foreign correspondent for Time magazine in the 1950s. His original dispatches to Time's New York office make up a majority of Paris in the Fifties.

By simply calling this collection Paris in the Fifties, however, Karnow has done himself a great injustice. His treatise on the City of Light is more a biography of a city and its culture than it is a mere look at a time and place. Ever wonder where the modern-day restaurant had its origin, or what happened to the French aristocracy after the ravages of the Revolution, or even how the French maintain their status at the forefront of culture--be it food, wine, art, or fashion? Karnow provides the answers and then some. His descriptions are as rich as they are comprehensive, all the while depicting how the French savoir vivre--the zest for life that Paris symbolizes for all of us--withstood the horrors of World War II and the destabilization of society as everyone knew it. This wonderful book is reassurance that no matter what modern threats to culture may come, toujours Paris: we'll always have Paris. And that is true comfort to any expatriate at heart. --Courtenay Kehn

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