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The City and the Writer: In Paris with Yannis Livadas

By Nathalie Handal

If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities


Can you describe the mood of Paris as you feel/see it?

The city is full of mental tidbits that pass unperceived. There is a pervasive sense of senselessness. A constant rumor slides while the lights of the city turn on and off. The Seine has no way to flow backward.


What is your most heartbreaking memory in this city?

The memory of Paris itself. One experiences solely the phantom of a city that once existed.  


What is the most extraordinary detail, one that goes unnoticed by most, of the city?

The gradual transformation of everything, as everywhere. Time consumes all predictions; it ruins this ostentatious civilization in an almost prestigious way.


What writer(s) from here should we read?

Blaise Cendrars, Emil Cioran, and Didier, the alcoholic florist of the fifth arrondissement. And the author of Magnat de la Mort—I always forget his name. 


Is there a place here you return to often?

Every stroll and every turn leads me to fabulous places, free spaces amidst streets and buildings, amidst people and habits.


Is there an iconic literary place we should know?

Absolutely: the last and lonely pissotière that remains on Boulevard Arago.


Are there hidden cities within this city that have intrigued or seduced you?

There is no such thing anymore. There are only fads toward which I am totally apathetic. 


Where does passion live here?

In a few people, I presume. Possibly fewer than I can think of. 


What is the title of one of your works about Paris and what inspired it exactly?

“La Chope Daguerre” is a poetic autoreportage not completely inspired by the city and its perimeter, but it is, somehow, dedicated to it.


Inspired by Levi, “Outside Paris does an outside exist?”

I believe that everything is enclosed, compressed, into false preconceptions.


Yannis Livadas is a contemporary Greek poet, born in 1969. Recent translations of his books include Magnat de la Mort: Poèmes courts, 1997-2011 (Éditions L’Harmattan, Paris, France, 2017) and My Bones in the Soup of My Grave (Ragged Lion Press, United Kingdom, 2018). He is also an essayist, editor, columnist, and translator of more than fifty books of American poetry and prose. His poems and essays have been translated into nine languages. He lives in Paris, France.

Published May 30, 2018   Copyright 2018 Nathalie Handal

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