An NYRB Classics Original
Jean-Paul Clébert 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, Clébert took to living on the streets, and in Paris Vagabond, a so-called “aleatory novel” assembled out of sketches he jotted down at the time, he tells what it was like. His “gallery of faces and cityscapes on the road to extinction” is an astonishing depiction of a world apart—a Paris, long since vanished, of the poor, the criminal, and the outcast—and 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 Vagabond—here published with the starkly striking photographs of Clébert’s friend Patrice Molinard—is a raw and celebratory evocation of the life of a city and the underside of life.
"A rollicking, poetically charged tale of privation and adventure, a first cousin of Kerouac’s On the Road for all that it takes place within the confines of one city. Clébert finds all the hidden worlds—the shacks and Gypsy wagons on the periphery, the ostensibly vacant lots...the mushroom farms and serpentariums concealed inside apartments..."--Luc Sante