Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Paris has been for centuries, like London, a City which has shaped the literary imaginations of those who inhabit it, and was itself in turn transformed, during the 19th century, by the architectural and city-planning dreams of those it had haunted. Therefore, though its origins lie as deep in time as London, Paris tends to manifest itself in Urban Fantasies as an intricate, interlocking Labyrinth of Edifices constructed by men; it tends to be understood as a vast exposition rather than as an organic growth whose boundaries fade imperceptibly, as do London's, into Water Margins. Paris is half a city that writers of fantasy can view, from without, as a focus of longing, and half a fever dream in stone – within which a figure like Quasimodo, in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) by Victor Hugo (1802-1885), or the failed Godgame player in Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (1910) can caper and strain, but cannot escape (see Phantom of the Opera) .

As an urban-fantasy venue, Paris served as a backdrop – a backdrop with false exits and Trompe-L'oeil effects – for 19th-century writers like Honoré de Balzac and Eugène Sue. Their intricate vision of the city was central for UK writers like Charles Dickens, whose A Tale of Two Cities (1859) reflects that vision; and it seems likely that the Paris of the Surrealists – the first relevant texts being Guillaume Apollinaire's The Heresiarch and Co (coll 1910) and The Poet Assassinated (1916) – is very closely shaped by their great 19th-century predecessors. Visions of Paris which combine Sue and Surrealism include Lisa Goldstein's The Dream Years (1985), Macdonald Harris's Herma (1981) and The Glowstone (1987), William Kotzwinkle's Fata Morgana (1977), Tanith Lee's Secret Books of Paradys sequence, and the movie version (1994) of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (1976). [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.