I am obsessed with Patricia Highsmith. My reading habits, I confess, have always been obsessive. Whenever I discover authors, if I am moved by a book I go through everything they’ve written. My obsessions are eclectic. I once read the entire Herodotus, spending weeks immersed in ancient Rome. I similarly went through an obsessive Maupassant phase, and in truth have never really emerged from it. A few years back, I read everything by Ian McEwan, such was my admiration for his writing. Now I’m plunged into the strange world of Patricia Highsmith. I’m not terribly interested in Highsmith’s life, despite the fascinating and perverse similarities between her troubled personality and the characters she created. She was alcoholic, lesbian, misanthropic, racist, and evidently cold and cruel in her personal relationships. The young author in the nude photo above, and the more

My fascination for the photo above can be explained not only because, dating more than a century ago, it wonderfully evokes the quaint fin-de-siecle romanticism of the Belle Epoque. Taken in 1900 from the pont Alexandre III, the photo shows the opulent pavillions that sprouted like a magnificent 19th century Disneyland along the Seine as part of the 1900 Exposition. The parasoled Victorian women and top-hatted gentlemen in the foreground were presumably visiting the world’s fair. Millions visited Paris that year to behold new-fangled inventions like escalators and sound-recording machines. Oscar Wilde, who would die in Paris later that same year, visited the fair where he made a brief recording of his voice, reading four lines from his poem, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”.  The photo holds another fasciation for me: it shows my current neighbourhood, the 7th arrondissement, a