Paul Morand

"The 1850 generation appealed to science, but the 1914 generation appealed to the body. The elliptical mechanisms devised by Morand found their audience in 1924," writes Thibaudet. Who is Paul Morand? Poet, novelist, essayist, diplomat, French ambassador to Romania, Italy, Britain, and Switzerland, a cosmopolitan spirit, married to Princess Sutzu, a member of the French Academy, chair II, (successor to Alain Peyrefitte, M. Garcon, Paul Hazard, and Colbert, in the opposite chronological order), born in Paris in 1888, the son of painter and drawing artist Eugène Morand. He wrote with Arnoux the script for the movie Don Quijote by Pabst, he smoked cigars, had a Jaguar offered to him by B. Grasset (he had appeared in the collection Les Cahiers Verts with Thibaudet, Maurois, Maurras, Montherlant, Mauriac, Giraudoux, Marthe Bibesco, and so on, up to around 60). He was ambassador of the Vichy government (he had accepted the offer of Pierre Laval and got the posts in Bucharest and Bern). He was an academician, as we have mentioned before, but he only got there the second time (the first time he failed, in 1958, by the narrowest of margins, as he lacked one vote only). He was the first NRF writer who got large circulation, filled up with the snobbery of dining out, of embroidered suits, of the poison and delight of an intense public life. He led those who made efforts to get Eugen Ionescu into the Academy, and he died in 1976. François Nourrissier, his protégé, considers him "our only modern classic," George Călinescu notes his "sprint style" and "the journalistic easiness," and considered him a "producer of sleeping-car literature." The French criticism considers that a "thinner" style followed the gild and velvety sparkling of his prose pieces in the 20s, when he was the most famous avant-garde novelist, impressing even Marcel Proust. After writing the biographies of New York and London, he was tempted by a city opposed to them – Bucharest. In this book published in 1935, he attempted the "portrait of a beautiful woman." In fact, what he did was the portrait of a sophisticated and eccentric city, burdened by history. The book is made up of two large sections (the historical panorama and the picturesque album, plus a foreword – Between the Danube and the Carpathian Mountains – and a closing chapter – Bucharest, A MerryCity). The book reviews, not without cosmopolitan accents, the great moments of our history: the She Wolf, Byzantium, Istanbul, Vlad, Ştefan, Lady Chiajna, Mihai, Brâncoveanu, the Phanar, King Carol I. It also includes some kind of a city map (a real map accompanies the text): Victory Promenade, Lipscani, Capşa, Athénée Palace, the National Theater, Kisseleff, the museums, the slum, Bucharest by night, as well as the city's annex, Sinaia. A note with acid: the most widely used word is tomorrow, which gets foreign investors coming to the Gates of the East angry. The Plon publishing house reprinted Bucharest (Morand's books were published by Gallimard, Grasset, and Plon, in fact). Owing to that, we present below two short fragments. Savor, elegance, and contrast, in one word, a "sophisticated painter" views our beloved Bucharest.

by Nic. Iliescu