A “magnet,” a “Mecca,” an “incubator,” a “hothouse” for writers, all these things Paris has been called. Rightly so: No other city in the world has attracted so much literary talent, launched so many illustrious careers, or produced such a wealth of enduring literature.
From the medieval poet and thief François Villon to 20th century poet and thief Jean Genet, from Rabelais to Henry Miller, Madame de La Fayette to Marguerite Duras, Molière to Samuel Beckett, writers who Paris nurtured were not only among the greatest of their times, but their most intriguing personalities. Many were positively scandalous. These include the Marquis de Sade, Casanova, and the poètes maudits Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Rimbaud. Oscar Wilde, Céline, Henry Miller, and William Burroughs and his fellow “Beats” shocked their contemporaries. So did George Sand, Colette, Anaïs Nin, and Duras. And looming over all of them is the frail and colossal figure Marcel Proust.
The writers' fictional characters are here as well: Quasimodo raining projectiles from the towers of Notre-Dame, Jake and Lady Brett downing whiskies at the Closerie des Lilas, Swann fumbling with Odette's orchid in a carriage on the Champs-Elysées, Jean Valjean and Cosette fleeing from Inspector Javert –- like the phantoms swirling in the night sky over Montmartre in Céline's Journey to the End of the Night, “so numerous and so active they made you head spin.”
As Rastignac, Vautrin, and other key characters keep reappearing in the novels of Balzac's Coméde humaine, our key writers and fictional characters materialize in a number of places in Paris, enriching our experience of them and of the city.
From World War II to the end of the 20th century
The early 20th century
The 19th century
The 18th century
The 17th century and earlier