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This report is taken from PN Review 234, Volume 43 Number 4, March - April 2017.

Letter from Paris Jennie Feldman
AS THE WIND PICKED UP, a dozen scattered sailing boats tilted and gathered speed across the pea-green water. One with a Union Jack traced a wide arc around others flying the flags of France, the Netherlands, Japan; seconds later it was chafing against the stone wall and a small boy raced past me to prod it back into action.

On my previous visit to the Jardin du Luxembourg, the model boats for hire had still sported numbers for you to choose from. The wide octagonal pool was its own world. With the switch to national flags, the scene now suggests either inconsequential Olympic rivalry or (as I couldn’t help seeing it) a mad, if graceful, enactment of current affairs. When a German-flagged craft overtakes another – with, inevitably, a Greek flag – and almost collides with an Italian one, windblown child’s play comes giddily close to political realities. At the boat-hire stall someone asked if the Union Jack would now have to go – a favourite quip, the good-humoured young man in charge told me. Luckily a pirate skiff with black sails and a skull-and-crossbones is there to reinforce the imaginative aspect (and the childish fancy that piracy is confined to fiction), as well as three unflappable Jemima Puddle-Ducks cruising near the fountain at the pool’s dead centre.

I was in Paris for the launch of a new anthology of poems from some sixty different nationalities and languages. As the audience gathered under the trees outside Shakespeare and Company bookshop, small groups of soldiers – a new feature on the city’s ...


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