Photo of the Week

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The view from the Théâtre de l"Odéon at dusk. Photo: Françoise Deberdt-Meunier

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Paris Update What’s On

Links to events happening this week in Paris.

Left Bank gallery crawl
> Open house at 50 galleries for Art Saint Germain des Prés. Various venues, Paris, May 18-June 3.

Gold in galleries

ParisUpdate-CarreRiveGauche-Passage AH 0

“Passage” ((2017), by Aude Herlédan. At 1831 Art Gallery during Carré Rive Gauche.

> The Carré Rive Gauche, an association of Left Bank galleries, celebrates its 40th anniversary with an event called ExtrORdinaire, featuring gold in works of art. Various venues, Paris, May 18-June 3.

Literary evening
> The Nuit de la Littérature in Belleville and Ménilmontant presents 20 foreign authors reading their work in French. Various venues, Paris, May 27.

 English-language theater festival
> Paris Fringe returns for its second year of English-language theater and comedy. Various venues, Paris, May 18-28.

Hollywood glam
> Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and more in classic films from Hollywood's Golden Age for the Glamour cycle. Forum des Images, Paris, May 3-31.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Etienne Comar’s Django, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, May 26.

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.

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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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