22 September 2014

Stefan Zweig on Paris 7

'I wandered through the streets, seeing so much, looking for so much else in my impatience! For the Paris of 1904 was not the only one I wanted to know; my senses and my heart were also in search of the Paris of Henri IV and Louis XIV, of Napolean and the Revolution, of Rétif de la Bretonne and Balzac, Zola and Charles-Louis Philippe, Paris with all its streets, its characters, its incidents. Here, as always in France, I felt how much strength a great literary tradition, with veracity as its ideal, can give back to its people, endowing them with immortality. In fact even before I saw it with my own eyes, I had become intellectually familiar in advance with everything in Paris through the art of the poets, novelists, and political and social historians who described it. It merely came to life when I arrived there. Actually seeing the city was really a case of recognition, the Greek anagnosis that Aristotle praises as the greatest and most mysterious of all artistic pleasures. All the details through books, or even by walking indefatigably around it, only through the best of those who live there. IT is intellectual friendship with its people that gives you insight into the real connections between them and their land; outside observations convey a misleading and over-hasty image.'

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