Found in Translation: The Restless "Flâneur"


Have you ever watched Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, dreaming that you could gaze throughout the night as you walk through the starry Parisian night? You daydream as your feet take you to places. You’re a wanderer of the streets. The French will call you the “flâneur”.

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The term is associated to idleness and the act of strolling, stemming from the Old Norse verb “flana”, which means “to wander with no purpose”.

Such term is a favorite among lithe famous French literrateurs. Honore de Balzac defines flanerie as the “gastronomy of the eye”; Victor Fournel likens “flanerie” as the way of understanding the city as if moving through the photograph — “un daguerreotype mobile et passione” — as he would put it.

The term became more popular when Charles Baudelaire described the flâneur as the artist-poet of the modern urban in “The Painter of Modern Life”. An excerpt from Paris Review says:

“For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define.”
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How does one become a flâneur? Honestly, it’s a label one acquires without trying to. To be a flâneur is to stroll on the streets with no purpose but to get lost in the metropolis. You daze and gaze, simply soaking in the city. You are the voyeur sitting from a park bench, watching the world pass you by, and when it does, you stand up and walk again, unconsciously seeking perfect spots for people-watching. You have no personal motives of finding inspiration.

You'd easily find these gazing daydreamers and daywalkers with starry eyes.

2018-05-06 #culture #flaneur #found-in-translation

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