Impossible City

Paris in the Twenty-First Century


By Simon Kuper

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$39.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 4, 2024. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

An entertaining and openhearted tale of a naïf eventually getting to understand a complex, glittering, beautiful and often cruel society – at least a little.

When Simon Kuper left London for Paris in his early thirties, he wasn't planning to make a permanent move. Paris, however, had other
plans. Kuper has grown middle-aged there, eaten the croissants, seen his American wife through life-threatening cancer, taken his children to countless football matches on freezing Saturday mornings in the city's notorious banlieues, and in 2015 lived through two terrorist attacks on their neighborhood. Over two decades of becoming something of a cantankerous Parisian himself, Kuper has watched the city change.

This century, it has globalized, gentrified, and been shocked into realizing its role as the crucible of civilizational conflict. Sometimes it's a multicultural paradise, and sometimes it isn't. This decade, Parisians have lived through a sequence of shocks: terrorist attacks, record floods and heatwaves, the burning of Notre Dame, the storming of the city by gilets jaunes, and then the pandemic. Now, as the Olympics come to town, France is busy executing the "Grand Paris" project: the most serious attempt yet to knit together the bejewelled city with its neglected suburbs.

This is a captivating memoir of the Paris of today, without the Parisian clichés.
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  • “His affection for Paris shines throughout the text, making it an enjoyable, balanced read. With a dry wit and a journalist’s eye, Kuper unravels the layered past and looks to the complex future of Paris.”
    Kirkus Reviews
  • "In self-aware prose shot through with droll wit, Kuper renders Paris’s triumphs and challenges alongside more mundane yet no less revealing moments... a loving and illuminating ode to the City of Light."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "Kuper’s trenchant, emotionally moving insights into Parisians’ lives offer a very humane portrait of Parisians trying to build productive lives for themselves and their offspring in a complicated metropolis far removed culturally, politically, socially, and geographically from their homelands."
  • "An affectionate take on Paris, by turns amusing and quaint… I learned that dressing dowdy is acceptable as long as you’re sporting a well-chosen scarf, and had my suspicions about Parisian waiters confirmed. Next time you travel to the former City of Light, take this book. You’ll enjoy it.”
    Evening Standard
  • “As [Kuper] recounts in this entertaining mix of memoir and anthropology, his time in the city, although pleasurable, has often seemed a never-ending struggle to be accepted into what, as the book’s title suggests, is one of the most closed societies in the world.”
    Sunday Times (UK)
  • “The style is elegant and flinty, the humour dry."
    Literary Review (UK)
  • “[A] persuasive defense of the very idea of the city.”
    Washington Post
  • “Though Kuper is one in a long tradition of expat journalists making these observations, this book is not a retread of Ernest Hemingway or Adam Gopnik. It’s a cross between memoir, reportage, and something akin to Paris for Dummies. The book is certainly informative as a sociological study and discourse on Parisian life…Kuper comes across as thoughtful and candid, a man aware of his own flaws and willing to recount his embarrassing missteps.”
    Los Angeles Review of Books
  • “Essential reading not only for anyone fascinated by Paris but also for those curious about how old-world powers reconcile with their cultural legacies in contemporary society. “
    Shelf Awareness

On Sale
Jun 4, 2024
Page Count
272 pages

Simon Kuper

About the Author

Simon Kuper is a British-French author and journalist for the Financial Times. He studied History and German at Oxford University, and attended Harvard University as a Kennedy Scholar, and he has written for the Observer, The Times and the Guardian, and also writes regularly for Dutch newspapers. He moved to Paris in 2001 and lives there with his French-American wife Pamela Druckerman and their daughters. 

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