Urban wandering can become a selfish art form or a secret vice? Absolutely yes, according to Federico Castigliano who in his inspiring book “Flâneur: The Art of Wandering the Streets of Paris” offers an idealized, romantic, and sensual vision of the “City of Lights”. Paris, a city to read and walk without haste, becomes “the realm of the possible” for those who are truly consumed by wanderlust.
Flâneur: The Art of Wandering the Streets of Paris – Photo Courtesy: Federico Castigliano
The Italian author, now settled in Beijing, identifies himself as a classic literary figure and may seem snobbish at times, but after all, he’s one of us, equally lost and on the run. Just see how he describes the ordinary travel experience:
Waking up early and braving the taxi or train ride to the airport weighed down with luggage; crossing the boutique-filled concourses, negotiating the security controls, checking in and proving my identity. And then, after hours of flying, arriving at an airport in another city, Beijing for example, only to find the same shops, the same soft drinks, and perfumes and then repeating the same actions in reverse to pick up my luggage and finally achieve my freedom once more… And if in Paris I was looking for Beijing, in Beijing I will end up looking for Paris, longing for a crusty baguette, a painting by Courbet, an Italian shirt.
The book is worth reading and includes an extensive bibliography that spans from Aldeguier and Balzac to Breton and Perec. More than wandering, it invites us to reflect on ourselves and on the path we want to follow in life. Don’t expect a happy ending or a linear storytelling without contradictions. How could it be?