Houseboat is the initial short story in a collection entitled Under a Glass Bell, published in 1944 by Anaïs Nin. It presents us with the complex relationship the artist carries on with Paris a relationship made of both attraction and repulsion. It also gives us an insight into the realm of fancy and the artist's fantasy.
[...] James Baldwin left the WASP United States and its worship of propriety and came to Paris “with forty dollars in his pockets”, plainly determined to experience the Parisian bohemian life praised by American writers in the Twenties. Unfortunately, he soon becomes aware that this life does not suit him at all: he grows weary of the dilapidated hotel he lives in and does not find inspiration in the cafés of St. Germain des Prés did not get much writing done”). [...]
[...] It presents us with a traumatic experience of the author so traumatic that Baldwin is surprised and nearly disappointed that it does not leave tangible marks on his body Paris and the Parisians: a rendez-vous manqué In 1949 Paris had not recaptured its lost prestige yet. Symbolically enough, a citizen of the world” presents us with the dilapidated, gloomy neighborhoods of the French capital. Traces of former luxury and affluence can still be distinguished - the hotelkeeper, for instance, tries to maintain a façade of refinement: he greets his guests with stately inclination of the head” and wears an old, but elegant suit. [...]
[...] The houseboat saves from suffocation and from drowning into the crowd as well as into the river: the woman who falls in the Seine owes her salvation to the anchor's chain Blurring boundaries Paris is a city of movement, where everything fluctuates and is ephemeral. This is emphasized by the play of light: coins of light and shadow waltz and the houseboat “bathes in reflections”. The “gusts of wind” and the complex “shivers” that run through the river also fuel the feeling that everything is fluid and changeable. [...]
[...] The atmosphere described by Anaïs Nin can't but remind us of the night pictures of the Thames by James Whistler an American painter in London. He too was attracted by the mysteries of the river. In Whistler as well as in Nin, the river is a magic world coated by the fog where light, water and vapor merger as if in a dream (Old Battersea Bridge); but it is also connected with immorality, crime and prostitution (Wapping) Dream and trip: the fragile sources of freedom and creation Anaïs Nin also reminds us of Baudelairian characters because of her relation to travel. [...]
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