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July 26, 2010

The secret city underneath Paris

To go underground and discover what lies buried beneath Paris, read this.

And then I'll tell you why I wanted you to do so...

I read The Lizard, the Catacombs, and the Clock: The Story of Paris’s Most Secret Underground Society because it was tweeted by Roger Ebert, so it was probably interesting. I had no idea what to expect, except that it would be about Paris and mysteries. Half way through I realized that I didn't even know if what I was reading was true. Was it journalism with literary influences or a short story meant to read like a feature article? It was published in a literary magazine, so was this fiction or non-fiction? I didn't care. I felt like I was reading a short novel. I wanted it to be a longer novel. I wanted someone to make it into a movie. I was imagining the trailer, with smoke drifting around Parisian street corners as members of a secret society emerge from potholes at 5 in the morning, holding hands. The layers of secrecy and confusion of art and reality reminded me of Siri Hustvedt's parallell universe. The journalist didn't know if the sources could be trusted, and as a reader, I didn't know if I could trust my narrator, but I was happy to go along with it all. I wanted to be tricked into believing that if I had just known the right people or taken the right wrong turn in the metro system, I would have discovered a dark and dusty Narnia. I wanted to believe - not know, believe - that there are people who secretly maintain the city of Paris from within.

"I have reached a dead end. Lanso’s secrets are tantalizing, but I can neither confirm nor deny them. UX’s deepest riddles cannot be Googled. The question I ask is, Do I believe them? And then I ask, Do I want to believe them? And then I know my answer."

Image: Zoriah, Creative Commons

Posted by Julie at July 26, 2010 10:19 PM

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Did you read neverwhere?

Posted by: Aina at July 27, 2010 10:17 AM

You mean the one about London Above and London Below? Yes. I thought about using "Paris Below" somewhere in this post.

But now that you mention it: I can't remember how Neverwhere ended, so maybe I never finished it.

Posted by: Julie R. Andersen at July 27, 2010 10:30 AM