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The death—or reinvention—of the French intellectual

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Left Bank: Art, Passion and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-1950. By Agnès Poirier. Henry Holt; 352 pages; $30. Bloomsbury Publishing; £25.

The End of the French Intellectual: From Zola to Houllebecq. By Shlomo Sand. Verso; 304 pages; $29.95 and £20.

FOR aspiring and often penniless intellectuals, the Café de Flore on the left bank in Paris, with its Art Deco interior and bow-tied waiters, was once, recounts Agnès Poirier, “a university”.

“Conversations were not loud; the air was serious, books stood between glasses, and the lighting was decidedly dim…Men wore corduroy jackets, turtlenecks, dirty trench coats, their hair a little too long, while women wore no make-up. Nobody was dressed fashionably, but everyone had style.”

“Left Bank”—Ms Poirier’s delightful account of the writers, artists and painters who shared beds, cigarettes and column inches on a few streets in the…Continue reading

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