Photo of the Week

ParisUpdate-bicycles-courtyard

Bicycles in a Parisian courtyard. © Paris Update

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Paris Update What’s On

Links to events happening this week in Paris.

Stick up for science
> The Paris March for Science begins at 1pm at the Jardin des Plantes (Place Valhubert), April 22.

Silent films from Switzerland?
> They’re rare, but they do exist and can be seen at the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris, April 20-May 2.

Voices from the North
> The Pølar Festival celebrates Northern European culture with films, concerts, talks and more. Various locations, Paris, April 19-29.

Photo walk
> Eight Paris galleries hold special photography shows and events for Parcours Fotofever. Various locations, Paris, through May 1.

Photo shows galore
> Le Mois de la Photo has been moved from autumn to spring, with 96 exhibitions taking place all over the greater Paris area. See Web site for locations and dates.

Art videos
> The theme of this year’s Videobox Festival is “noise and movement.” Carreau du Temple, Paris, April 27-29.

Take home a winemaker
> Winemakers from Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux come to Paris to offer tastings of their products in wine bars and private homes for the event J’Irai Déguster chez Vous. Various venues, Paris, April 20-22.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Nicolas Bedos’s Monsieur & Madame Adelman preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, April 21.

Polaroid pix
> The “Expolaroid” exhibition features Polaroid images by nine artists. La Maison des Ensembles, Paris, through April 25.

Binge-watching
> Festival Séries Mania shows TV series from around the world and holds debates, conferences and special guests like Julianna Margulies of “The Good Wife,” all for free. Forum des Images, Paris, through April 23.

Travel yarns
> Travel fanatics get together at the Paris Travelers Festival to swap tales of their adventures. FIAP, Paris, April 22-23.

Street art indoors

ParisUpdate-UrbanArtFair-Felipe-Pantone-2
The gallery Art in the Game will be showing works by Felipe Pantone at the Urban Art Fair.> Some 30 galleries show street art at the Urban Art Fair. Carreau du Temple, Paris, April 20-23.

Virtual reality
> Drop in on Saturday or Sunday from 2pm to 8pm for a free virtual trip at the VR Express festival. Forum des Images, Paris, through June 30.

Dance in historic sites
> Monuments en Mouvement offers free dance performances in national monuments like the Pantheon in Paris, the Abbaye de Cluny and châteaux. Various locations, through Oct. 21.

African culture festival
> The 100% Afriques festival showcases dance, theater, music, fashion, design, art, food and more from all over the continent. La Villette, Paris, through May 28.

Before and after ecological disaster
> The Chic Planète festival presents two types of films, those celebrating the bounty of the earth and science-fiction views of what will happen after an ecopalypse. Forum des Images, Paris, through April 13.

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Books - Fiction

 

Ghosts of Saint-Michel

Saints Meet Sinners in City of Light

Spies and lies drive the plot of Lamar's new thriller.

In his new thriller/murder mystery, Ghosts of Saint-Michel (St. Martin’s Minotaur), Jake Lamar, an American writer living in Paris, has used the sculptures on the city’s Saint-Michel Fountain, which vividly depict a triumphant Saint Michael vanquishing Satan’s forces, as both a symbol and a setting for events past and present.

Lamar has an easy way of weaving world politics – terrorism and a CIA-like organization play leading roles in the plot, as do atrocities committed in the past by the French police – into the personal lives of believable characters. He is also totally at ease in the bicultural world of American residents of Paris and their French friends and lovers.

A quick plot summary: the gutsy, charismatic Marva, the 62-year-old American owner of a famed Paris soul-food restaurant, is in the grip of overwhelming lust for her 28-year-old lover, her sous-chef Hassan (described as having “the distracted, not-all-there look of certain saints and sociopaths”). She is so anxious to return to his arms that she even cuts short her usual month-long August vacation (blasphemy in France, where the summer holiday is sacred) with Loïc, her perfect husband.

But all is not well when she returns to Paris. A bomb has exploded in the headquarters of an international cultural organization, and her lover and his cousin are the main suspects. The former has disappeared, and the latter has been arrested.

This sets off a chain of events in which we learn that none of the characters are exactly what they seem to be – not even terrorists. The lines between good and evil – so clear in the Saint-Michel Fountain sculptures – begin to blur as we find out more about the characters’ past lives.

The unlikely savior of the increasingly complex and dangerous situation that develops turns out to be Naima, Marva and Loïc’s 23-year-old daughter, who returns from her home in New York City to play her part in the unfolding drama and represent the coming together of the often conflicting worlds of France and the United States.

Lamar’s well-written and finely paced novel keeps our interest and sympathy for the likable characters right up until the end, where the believability level begins to slip. The novel’s denouement just goes too far into the realm of implausibility. Few thrillers are plausible, however, and this one is so much better-written and engaging than most that it seems unimportant.

This is the fifth novel by Lamar, a former journalist who published a memoir, Bourgeois Blues, when he was barely 30. He has lived in Montmartre for many years.

Heidi Ellison

© 2006 Paris Update

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