Thursday 10 August 2017

"Nairn's Paris" in Literary Review

I have written a review of the republication of 'Nairn's Paris', a guide written in 1968 by seminal architectural critic Ian Nairn, that you can find in this month's edition of the Literary Review magazine. 

If you are not familiar with the idiosyncratic work of Ian Nairn, I recommend you read this article published 30 years after his early death, which also includes clips of his equally quirky television programmes.

Nairn was best known in England as an architecture critic, blasting both postwar modernism and - almost paradoxially - excessive conservation, but he also published a number of town and city guides. His Paris guide followed a similar, successful guide to London, and matched its style. Although city guides designed for tourists, they contain almost no information on restaurants, hotels or bars, which of course facilitates this republication nearly 50 years later!

Review extract
"Comparing Nairn’s perfectly date-stamped snapshots from 1968 – pre-May, it must be pointed out – with the city in front of us today enables us to embark on an almost metaphysical tour of Paris. It also invites us to consider an ethereal third dimension, somewhere between the past and the present: what the city might have become."

If you have a subscription you can read the review here: If not, the magazine is always an interesting and informative read! In any case, I can reveal that I thoroughly recommend this republication, both for the unusual way it describes Paris and the city's suburbs, and for the book itself which is a very handsome object!

You can find another very interesting review of the book by Paris-based writer Andrew Gallix, published in New European, here.


Peter (the other) said...

The book is not available in the states until April... still, he sounds fascinating. Thanks for enlightening another corner (Nairn). Perhaps I shall start with his London, or his USA! Congratulations on the wonderful, prestigious publication, I shall chase this issue down.

Colin Bisset said...

Thanks, Adam - I was only vaguely aware of him and he sounds right up my strasse. In Australia, Robin Boyd was a similarly scathing but intelligent critic of the awfulness of suburbia and had a similar desire for quality. It amazes me still, especially as I broadcast in Australia about architectural gems, how resistant so many people are to engage with buildings and to see them as important.

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