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Paris in the Present Tense: A Novel

by Mark Helprin

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2241591,254 (4.18)9
Mark Helprin's powerful, rapturous new novel is set in a present-day Paris caught between violent unrest and its well-known, inescapable glories. Seventy-four-year-old Jules Lacour--a maitre at Paris-Sorbonne, cellist, widower, veteran of the war in Algeria, and child of the Holocaust--must find a balance between his strong obligations to the past and the attractions and beauties of life and love in the present.In the midst of what should be an effulgent time of life--days bright with music, family, rowing on the Seine--Jules is confronted headlong and all at once by a series of challenges to his principles, livelihood, and home, forcing him to grapple with his complex past and find a way forward. He risks fraud to save his terminally ill infant grandson, matches wits with a renegade insurance investigator, is drawn into an act of savage violence, and falls deeply, excitingly in love with a young cellist a third his age. Against the backdrop of an exquisite and knowing vision of Paris and the way it can uniquely shape a life, he forges a denouement that is staggering in its humanity, elegance, and truth.In the intoxicating beauty of its prose and emotional amplitude of its storytelling, Mark Helprin's Paris in the Present Tense is a soaring achievement, a deep, dizzying look at a life through the purifying lenses of art and memory.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Paris in the Present Tense. Mark Helprin. 2017. A love poem to the Paris we all love. Helprin compares Paris and its sounds to the beauty and sounds of classical music. The novel details what lengths a man will go to save those he loves. Jules Lacour, a child of the Holocaust and veteran of the Algerian war, is a music teacher at the Sorbonne, a cellist and a widower. He is 74 years old and has a grandson who is dying of leukemia who is determined to find a way to save this lovely child. I really enjoyed this rather complicated and unbelievable plot, including the flashbacks to WWII and the Algerian War, the cut-throat machinations of the insurance industry, daily activities of the police department, and the insights into love and marriage. A beautiful novel. . ( )
  judithrs | Jul 28, 2020 |
I love good first sentences: "Call me Ishmael," "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," etc. How about: "A disintegrating airframe offers little in the way of second chances, and because this sometimes happens, taking to the air tends to heighten one's awareness of that which has come before and that which may come yet." That was really all I needed to read before buying and reading this book. There are no sloppy or rushed sentences in this book. It really put me in mind of a jewel cutter or watch maker's work.

I agree there was something both implausible and objectionable about the geriatric protagonist's robust fitness and libido however the author is closer to the protagonist's age than myself so perhaps he knows of what he writes. ( )
  JoeHamilton | Jul 21, 2020 |
Jules Lacour and music descriptions were enjoyable;
fraud made for a predictable, tedious, and boring plot. ( )
  m.belljackson | May 30, 2020 |
I will read anything this man writes, for he knows pain and love intimately. I am entranced. ( )
  leebill | May 1, 2020 |
A transcendent novel that contextualizes the sociopolitical climate while capturing the essence of aging and artistic immortality. A book to cherish and reread. ( )
  DellaWanna | Oct 19, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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For Julian Licht, Jules Hirsch, Francine Christophe With thanks to William Winston -- Poet, Critic, Friend
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A Disintegrating Airframe offers little in the way of second chances, and because this sometimes happens, taking to the air tends to heighten one's awareness of that which has come before and that which may come yet.
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Mark Helprin's powerful, rapturous new novel is set in a present-day Paris caught between violent unrest and its well-known, inescapable glories. Seventy-four-year-old Jules Lacour--a maitre at Paris-Sorbonne, cellist, widower, veteran of the war in Algeria, and child of the Holocaust--must find a balance between his strong obligations to the past and the attractions and beauties of life and love in the present.In the midst of what should be an effulgent time of life--days bright with music, family, rowing on the Seine--Jules is confronted headlong and all at once by a series of challenges to his principles, livelihood, and home, forcing him to grapple with his complex past and find a way forward. He risks fraud to save his terminally ill infant grandson, matches wits with a renegade insurance investigator, is drawn into an act of savage violence, and falls deeply, excitingly in love with a young cellist a third his age. Against the backdrop of an exquisite and knowing vision of Paris and the way it can uniquely shape a life, he forges a denouement that is staggering in its humanity, elegance, and truth.In the intoxicating beauty of its prose and emotional amplitude of its storytelling, Mark Helprin's Paris in the Present Tense is a soaring achievement, a deep, dizzying look at a life through the purifying lenses of art and memory.

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