Author(s): Agnès Poirier
A captivating portrait of those who lived, loved, fought, played and flourished in Paris between 1940 and 1950 and whose intellectual and artistic output still influences us todayAfter the horrors of the Second World War, Paris was the place where the world's most original voices of the time came - among them Norman Mailer, Miles Davis, Simone de Beauvoir, James Baldwin, Juliette Greco, Alberto Giacometti, Saul Bellow and Arthur Koestler. Fuelled by the elation of the Liberation, they hoped to find an independent and original alternative to the Capitalist and Communist models for life, art and politics - a Third Way. These pioneers also reinvented their relationships with others, questioning, shaking and often rejecting the institutions of marriage and family. They consumed drugs, cigarettes and alcohol with passion; their heightened sexuality proved an inherent part of their creativity and permeated everything they did. The fertility of the interaction between literature, theatre, anthropology, philosophy, politics and cinema was unrivalled by anywhere else in the world at that time, and Paris seemed to be at the heart of all that was new and brave and controversial. Yet what did they achieve, these intellectuals in whom so much fierce hope had been placed? Post-war Parisian irresponsibility is as much the focus of Left Bank as political, artistic, moral and sexual incandescence. Agnès Poirier skilfully weaves together a collage of images and destinies and the voices clamour from the pages, as fresh, vital and challenging as when they first were raised.
A captivating portrait of those who lived, loved, fought, played and flourished in Paris between 1940 and 1950 and whose intellectual and artistic output still influences us today
A tour de force ... weaves together so many people, ideas, trends, occurrences, and above all Parisian places, into a tapestry of fascinations - a distillation of the essence of an amazing time ... the best of its kind I have ever read -- A.C. Grayling A brilliant recapturing of a fascinating era. Artistic and intellectual Paris comes vividly and memorably alive in these pages. A tremendous achievement -- William Boyd Poirier does not shy away from exposing the joy and pain of experimental living or from exploring with sensitivity the moral ambiguity of living through the Occupation ... compulsive reading -- Anne Sebba, author of 'Les Parisiennes: Resistance, Collaboration, and the Women of Paris Under Nazi Occupation' A book which combines rich and subtle intellectual history with all the pleasures of a great soap opera. Its gallery of characters is wonderfully realised - but the most wonderfully realised of all is Paris herself -- Tom Holland A detailed chronicle of a decade alive with intellectual and political ferment. London-based journalist Poirier (Touche: A French Woman's Take on the English, 1997), a panel member of the BBC's weekly program Dateline London, offers a gossipy, well-informed cultural history of her native Paris, beginning in 1938, with Europe on the brink of war, and ending in 1949, with the Marshall Plan in effect to help the continent recover ... An animated, abundantly populated history of dramatic times * Kirkus * With mastery of her sources, Agnes Poirier provides an engrossing synthesis of a great capital city's cultural and intellectual life in this crucial decade. It is acute, often brilliant and beautifully written. When liberal values on both sides of the Atlantic are being threatened by a recrudescence of xenophobia and nationalism, Left Bank could hardly be more timely and vital -- Oliver Kamm
Agnes Poirier is a Paris-born and London-educated journalist, writer, critic and broadcaster. She is the author of four essays about the different ways in which France and Britain do things, topics she tirelessly discusses on the BBC, Sky News and CNN and writes about in, among others, the Guardian, the Observer, The Times, Marianne, Telerama and L'Espresso. She has also taught at Sciences-Po in Paris, and pre-selects British films for the Cannes film festival. She loves cycling and the songs of Charles Trenet. She lives in Paris and London.