Monday, January 29, 2007


anya p. thought that the following snippet from benjamin's arcades project (encountered in this case in edmund white's book the flâneur, p. 46) might be of interest as we do our own flânerie projects here in seattle.

"The flâneur is the creation of Paris. The wonder is that it was not Rome. But perhaps in Rome even dreaming is forced to move along streets that are too well-paved. And isn't the city too full of temples, enclosed squares and national shrines to be able to enter undivided into the dreams of the passer-by, along with every paving stone, every shop sign, every flight of steps, and every gateway? The great reminiscences, the historical frissons - these are all so much junk to the flâneur, who is happy to leave them to the tourist. And he would be happy to trade all his knowledge of artists' quarters, birthplaces and princely palaces for the scent of a single weathered threshold or the touch of a single tile - that which any old dog carries away. And much may have to do with the Roman character. For it is not the foreigners but they themselves, the Parisiens, who made Paris into the Promised Land of flâneurs, into a 'landscape made of living people', as Hofmannsthal once called it. Landscape - this is what the city becomes for the flâneur. Or, more precisely, the city splits into its dialectical poles. It becomes a landscape that opens up to him and a parlour that encloses him."

i'm afraid the book itself by white is a bit too cavalier to earn a wholehearted recommendation (it reminds me of the critique by garrison keillor of bernard-henri levy's book about america, the concise and humorless version of which is that it is overfull of pat generalizations), but it does have some interesting observations concerning the tradition of flânerie.


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