A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
The flâneur is the quintessentially masculine figure of privilege and leisure who strides the capitals of the world with abandon. But it is the flâneuse who captures the imagination of the cultural critic Lauren Elkin. In her wonderfully gender-bending new book, the flâneuse is a “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.” Virginia Woolf called it “street haunting”; Holly Golightly epitomized it in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; and Patti Smith did it in her own inimitable style in 1970s New York.
Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse takes us on a distinctly cosmopolitan jaunt that begins in New York, where Elkin grew up, and transports us to Paris via Venice, Tokyo, and London, all cities in which she’s lived. We are shown the paths beaten by such flâneuses as the cross-dressing nineteenth-century novelist George Sand, the Parisian artist Sophie Calle, the wartime correspondent Martha Gellhorn, and the writer Jean Rhys. With tenacity and insight, Elkin creates a mosaic of what urban settings have meant to women, charting through literature, art, history, and film the sometimes exhilarating, sometimes fraught relationship that women have with the metropolis.
Called “deliciously spiky and seditious” by The Guardian, Flâneuse will inspire you to light out for the great cities yourself.
“An uplifting, gender-bending critique of how women negotiate public space” Deborah Levy Guardian, Book of the Year
“Deliciously spiky and seditious, she takes her readers on a rich, intelligent and lively meander through cultural history, biography, literary criticism, urban topography and memoir… I defy anyone to read this celebratory study and not feel inspired to take to the streets in one way or another.” Lucy Scholes Observer
“Flâneuse is not simply a reclaiming of space, but also of a suppressed intellectual and cultural history. Finding ways to reframe images of women walking and to reverse male gazes, Flâneuse builds on recent work by Rebecca Solnit and the artist Laura Oldfield Ford, among others, with striking intellectual vigour and clear, enrapturing prose.
” Financial Times
“Wonderful… a joyful genealogy of the female urban walker. The book’s narrative meanders brilliantly and appropriately across several times periods at once… Elkin’s Flaneuse does not simply wander aimlessly, any more than Elkin does herself in this elegant book: she uses her reflection to question, challenge and create anew the life that she observes.” Lara Feigel Guardian
“I’ve been waiting for years to see the history of women walkers in the city added to the critical literature of the flaneur–and here, in Lauren Elkin’s really smart and lovely book” Vivian Gornick
“Engaging, inspiring and vigorous… The persuasiveness with which she urges us to rethink and expand our understanding of the art of flânerie, together with the force of her insights and the strength and weight of her voice, leaves us with a contribution to the field that feels singular. Buy it, read it, talk about it. And carry it with you in your mind when you next go walking in the city.” Matthew Adams The National
“Flâneuse offers a rich engagement with the “psychogeography” of 20th-century literature and the contemporary city… A rich, rewarding pedalogue” Martin Doyle and Sara Keating Irish Times
“Marvellously eclectic and erudite” Bookseller