From One Paris Journalist to Another

New book reconnects former NYT Paris bureau chief with a 19th century street reporter.

TheOnlyStreetinParisCoverThe reviews for Elaine Sciolino’s new book The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs have been solid. In this coming weekend’s Sunday Book Review, Kate Betts, the author of a separate 2015 City of Lights valentine, adds her voice of approval to the chorus.

Sciolino had a long career with The New York Times, starting in 1984. She served as U.N. bureau chief, CIA correspondent and Paris bureau chief. The premise of her latest book is to tell the story of Paris by focusing on a half-mile stretch of street in the ninth arrondissement frequented over the years by everyone from painter Paul Cézanne to filmmaker Francois Truffaut. But it is another less famous name that brought Sciolino full circle:

Perhaps the bigger ghost haunting Scio­lino in this book is Louis-Sébastien Mercier, a street reporter from another century who spent his days recording people’s habits and customs for his “Tableau de Paris,” an ill-fated 12-volume collection published on the eve of the revolution. Sciolino confesses to a “complicated” relationship with Mercier, who was the subject of a doctoral dissertation she once hoped to complete. This volume could be considered her second attempt — decidedly shorter, but no less rigorous in its encyclopedic range.

Sciolino currently lives in Paris with her husband and two children. In 2005, for New York Times Travel, she sang the praises of the same Pigalle district street. More recently, for outlets including CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Fresh Air, Sciolino has been commenting about the Paris terrorist attacks.

[Jacket cover via: W.W. Norton & Company]