Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris by Edmund White - review by Richard Davenport-Hines

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.’

However, his reasons for settling in Paris in 1983 and remaining a resident there until 1998 were mercenary rather than sexual or cultural. After receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship worth $16,000, he discovered that he could avoid paying taxes on both sides of the Atlantic if he curbed his visits to

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