The Schmooze

Author Blog: The Presence of the Past

Earlier this week, Kati Marton wrote about the French Jewish family the Camondos and Paris’s black marble plaques. Her blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:


Now that I live part-time in Paris, I explore the city’s complex and sometimes disturbing relationship to toward its Jewish citizens — which given my own Jewish heritage, feels personal to me. In “Paris: A Love Story,” I probe this aspect of the city which most tourists miss.

In my Paris neighborhood, I am discovering France’s historic fear of outsiders. Indifference to the fate of those not inside their circle is the underside of the French passion for privacy, for la discretion. A country that has experienced multiple invasions and a catastrophic loss of life in World War I has low expectations of humanity — and an understandable fear of les etrangers — strangers. “C’est normale,” accompanied by a gallic shrug, is an expression I hear often. Even death in mid-life is deemed “normale,” something to accept and live with. In New York, death is not “normale.” It is a shocking intrusion into life — a failure. No one in hyperactive Manhattan wants to be reminded of mortality.

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Author Blog: The Presence of the Past

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