Melvyn Bragg – the flâneur of London

From Melvyn Bragg’s In our Time newsletter:

“But I’ve done a lot of pounding the streets of the West End of London in the past few days, and what comes out is such pleasure in the variety of people you see. Dr Johnson was absolutely right in his time and he would have been even more delighted and engrossed today. But its not only the sight of people catching their smiles, their sadness, their isolation, their conviviality its the sounds they make the half-sentence, the exclamation, the foreign language which you cant quite place, somehow the vivacity of it all, because one is walking through it and meeting it and leaving it in an instant and yet its part of the life we live. I can understand the flâneur of Paris; just walking around the city, listening in to it, letting it wash against you, richer, in a way, than the sea, but also letting yourself drown in it.”

And a flâneur? It comes from the French noun flâneur for a stroller, lounger, saunterer, loafer. Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning – that of a person who walks the city in order to experience it. But you knew that, didn’t you?

One thought on “Melvyn Bragg – the flâneur of London

  1. dill says:

    Hi Andy – great blog. I loved the horse head, and will use it in my writing tutorial on Saturday, if that’s ok?

    Call me sad, but I knew ‘flaneur’ through Baudelaire – the story of his strolls is an interesting one, where ‘interesting’ bears a heavy load. A related thing is The Arcades Project, inaugurated, I think, by the great Walter Benjamin, at

    http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674008021

    Worth a look, as is Benjamin’s book ‘Illuminations’ (if you haven’t seen it already).

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