Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon

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paristothemoonAdam Gopnik lived in Paris from 1995 to 2000. Paris to the Moon is a collection of the essays he wrote for THE NEW YORKER during that time. Reading it now, over a decade removed from the Paris he knew, it’s interesting how the stories chronicle how things have changed and how they’ve stayed the same.

Here are some of the things I’ve liked so far:

» All cultural prejudices seem like practical facts to the prejudiced. (p. 52) [I explore this idea in both my Foreign To Me Now and Euro Adapter posts.]

» Every French man and woman is engaged in a constant entanglement with one ministry or another, and I have come to realize that these entanglements are what take the place of going to a gym where people actually work out. Three or four days a week you’re given something to do that is time-consuming, takes you out of yourself, is mildly painful, forces you into close proximity with strangers, and ends, usually, with a surprising rush of exhilaration: “Hey, I did it.” (p. 67)

» The French believe that all errors are distant, someone else’s fault. Americans believe that there is no distance, no difference, and therefore that there are no errors, that any troubles are simple misunderstandings. (p. 99)

It’s incredibly frustrating how true the last thing is. When I ask people to explain how they arrived at a particular conclusion (their thought process) to better identify where a misunderstanding started, they look at me like I have three heads. This was true in Spain as well and is something that I didn’t realize was American (though I must point out that Gopnik is Canadian, so, what does he know?).

Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

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