Last week NYRB Classics took you to the sea (or at least to the pool), this week we’re taking you on a grand urban tour with a peek inside some of our books set in Paris, New York, Berlin, and Amsterdam.
The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick, selected and with an introduction by Darryl Pinckney
Sometimes while waiting for a taxi at Seventy-ninth Street, after midnight, it is possible, with a certain amount of effort or with a little too much wine, to imagine the city returned to trees, old footpaths, and clear, untroubled waters, returned to innocence and nautical miscalculations and ancestral heroics.
The New York Stories of Henry James, selected and with an introduction by Colm Tóibín
That’s the way to live in New York—to move every three or four years. Then you always get the last thing. It’s because the city’s growing so quick—you’ve got to keep up with it. It’s going straight up town—that’s where New York is going…
The New York Stories of Edith Wharton, selected and with an introduction by Roxana Robinson
As he walked he glanced curiously up at the ladder-like doorsteps which may well suggest to the future archaeologist that all the streets of New York were once canals; at the spectral tracery of the trees about St. Luke’s, the fretted mass of the Cathedral, and the mean vista of the long side streets.
Last Words from Montmartre, by Qiu Miaojin, translated by Ari Larissa Heinrich
It’s as if my life in Paris is entering a blooming thicket. I could really grow to adore Parisian life, its inspiration, as well as the work I’m doing here, the friends I’m meeting, this incredible banquet the city offers. I feel like I’m ready to become an adult here, someone worthy of my own respect.
Paris Stories, by Mavis Gallant, selected and with an introduction by Michael Ondaatje
Sandor Speck’s first art gallery in Paris was on the Right Bank, near the Church of St. Elisabeth, on a street too narrow for cars. When his block was wiped off the map to make way for a five-story garage, Speck crossed the Seine to the shadow of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, where he set up shop in a picturesque slum protected by law from demolition. When this gallery was blown up by Basque separatists, who had mistaken it for a travel agency exploiting the beauty of their coast, he collected his insurance money and moved to the Faubourg Saint-Germain.
Memoirs of Montparnasse, by John Glassco, introduction by Louis Begley
Evening was falling when I left the Quai d’Orléans, crossed the Pont de la Tournelle and went along the Quai de Montebello to Saint-Michel. I felt the city had swallowed me and I now made part of it. It was an experience of possession by something so stately and vivid that I walked along in a dream of absolute subservience to stone and river and sky.
Amsterdam Stories, by Nescio, introduction by Joseph O’Neill, translated from the Dutch by Damion Searls
I had come back to Holland to suffer poverty and write articles and stories in the neighborhood where I had lived for so long. And I wanted to go through my last two rijksdollars in a city that for a while, in my absence, had been the center of the world.
Nights in the Gardens of Brooklyn, by Harvey Swados, preface by Grace Paley
There was a time when New York was everything to me: my mother, my mistress, my Mecca, when I could no more have wanted to live any place else than I could have conceived of myself as a daddy, disciplining my boy and dandling my daughter.
Berlin Stories, by Robert Walser, edited by Jochen Greven, translated from the German and with an introduction by Susan Bernofsky
Berlin, by comparison—how splendid! A city like Berlin is an ill-mannered, impertinent, intelligent scoundrel, constantly affirming the things that suit him and tossing aside everything he tires of. Here in the big city you can definitely feel the waves of intellect washing over the life of Berlin society like a sort of bath.