Jean-Paul ClÃ©bert was a boy from a respectable middle-class family who ran away from school, joined the French Resistance, and never looked back. Making his way to Paris at the end of World War II, ClÃ©bert took to living on the streets, and in Paris Vagabond, a so-called âaleatory novelâ assembled out of sketches he jotted down at the time, he tells what it was like. His âgallery of faces and cityscapes on the road to extinctionâ is an astonishing depiction of a world apartâa Paris, long since vanished, of the poor, the criminal, and the outcastâand a no less astonishing feat of literary improvisation: Its long looping breathless sentences, streetwise, profane, lyrical, incantatory, are an adventure in their own right. Praised on publication by the great novelist and poet Blaise Cendrars and embraced by the young Situationists as a kind of manual for living off the grid, Paris Vagabondâhere published with the starkly striking photographs of ClÃ©bertâs friend Patrice Molinardâis a raw and celebratory evocation of the life of a city and the underside of life.
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