It is almost hard to imagine it now. That the death of an American statesman would resonate so loudly in France that the French would grieve as if they had lost one of their own. Writing from her Paris perch 59 years ago this month, Janet Flanner remarked in The New Yorker magazine that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death had sparked a popular sorrow so deep it “seemed like someone’s private unhappiness multiplied by millions.” Times may have changed. A trans-Atlantic tit for tat may have replaced diplomacy in the last year.
But still, it’s true: Paris, the metropolis that Henry James deemed “the most brilliant city in the world,” still rocks ours. And if The New Yorker’s latest wry eye from France is correct, the feeling is more mutual than we know. Paris. Then and now.
Adam Gopnik, editor, “Americans in Paris: A Literary Anthology” and staff writer, The New Yorker