Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wandering the Parisian Arcade

Preparing for my Weimar talk I came across Émile Zola's description [in his 1880 Nana] of the Passage des Panoramas in Paris. Hard to explain why, but this "passage" strikes me as being especially lovely
A shower had just driven a crowd of people into the Passage. There was quite a mob, and it was a slow and difficult task to pass along between the shops on either side. Beneath the glass roof, brightened by the reflection, there was a most fierce illumination, consisting of an endless string of lights white globes, red and blue lamps, rows of flaring gas-jets, and monstrous watches and fans formed of flames of fire burning without any protection whatsoever; and the medley of colours in the various shop windows the gold of the jewellers, the crystal vases of the confectioners, the pale silks of the milliners blazed behind the spotless plate-glass, in the strong light cast by the reflectors; whilst among the chaos of gaudily painted signs, an enormous red glove in the distance looked like a bleeding hand, cut off and fixed to a yellow cuff.  
Count Muffat had strolled leisurely as far as the Boulevard. He cast a glance on the pavement, then slowly retraced his footsteps, keeping close to the shops. A damp and warm air filled the narrow thoroughfare with a kind of luminous vapour. Along the flagstones, wet from the drippings of umbrellas, footsteps reverberated continuously, without the sound of a single voice. The passers-by, elbowing the count at each turn, gazed at his impassive face, rendered paler than usual by the glare of the gas. So, to escape from their curiosity, he went and stood in front of a stationer's shop, where he inspected, apparently with profound attention, a display of glass paper-weights, containing coloured representations of landscapes and flowers. 
But in reality he saw nothing. 
Bonus! I took some pictures of the Passage des Panoramas last year.

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