*Shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay*
Selected as a Book of the Year 2016 by the Financial Times, Guardian, New Statesman, Observer, The Millions and Emerald Street
'Flâneuse [flanne-euhze], noun, from the French. Feminine form of flâneur [flanne-euhr], an idler, a dawdling observer, usually found in cities.
That is an imaginary definition.'
If the word flâneur conjures up visions of Baudelaire, boulevards and bohemia – then what exactly is a flâneuse?
In this gloriously provocative and celebratory book, Lauren Elkin defines her as ‘a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk’. Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between the city and creativity through a journey that begins in New York and moves us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo and London, exploring along the way the paths taken by the flâneuses who have lived and walked in those cities.
From nineteenth-century novelist George Sand to artist Sophie Calle, from war correspondent Martha Gellhorn to film-maker Agnes Varda, Flâneuse considers what is at stake when a certain kind of light-footed woman encounters the city and changes her life, one step at a time.
An uplifting, gender-bending critique of how women negotiate public space
Deliciously spiky and seditious, she takes her readers on a rich, intelligent and lively meander through cultural history, biography, literary criticism, urban topography and memoir… I defy anyone to read this celebratory study and not feel inspired to take to the streets in one way or another.
Well researched and larded with examples, this picaresque account of a picaresque longing successfully paints women back into the city... Elkin reboots the appetite to go walking and thinking in the city, which can only be a good thing.
Flâneuse is not simply a reclaiming of space, but also of a suppressed intellectual and cultural history. Finding ways to reframe images of women walking and to reverse male gazes, Flâneuse builds on recent work by Rebecca Solnit and the artist Laura Oldfield Ford, among others, with striking intellectual vigour and clear, enrapturing prose.
The thoughtful urban stroller Lauren Elkin is a self-appointed heir to Woolf's 'street haunter'. A memoir, a travelogue and an eminently likeable work of literary criticism, Flaneuse is more like a song sung under Elkin’s breath. [...] At its best, her book evokes reading aloud... reading your own life through the novels that form part of it.