Richard Davenport-Hines

Scenes from a Literary Life

Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris


Bloomsbury 259pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

As an American schoolboy, crouched on a lavatory after dormitory lights out, Edmund White ‘read Rimbaud and Verlaine in en face translations, obsessively, secretively’. Later, he found Gitanes glamorous, noticed that Europeans misread his social standing in a gratifying way, and among the thousands of men with whom he had sex in New York recalled ‘a short, jolly French tourist (or was he a sailor from Marseille?)’, très bien monté, with whom he went to see an early Depardieu film: ‘The little Frenchman kept pushing my hand onto the enormous bulge in his trousers, and whispering incomprehensible dirty words into my ear.’

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