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Street SongsWriters and urban songs and cries, 1800-1925$
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Daniel Karlin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198792352

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198792352.001.0001

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Voulez ouyr les cris de Paris?

Voulez ouyr les cris de Paris?

(p.138) 6 Voulez ouyr les cris de Paris?
Street Songs

Daniel Karlin

Oxford University Press

In an episode of La Prisonnière, the sixth volume of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, the narrator listens from his bedroom to the cris de Paris, which like the ‘Cries of London’ had long been enshrined in music and visual art. The pleasure the narrator takes in associating the cries he hears with Gregorian plainchant, or the music of Debussy and Mussorgsky, suggests his interest is purely aesthetic. But this aesthetic surface is a mask; in the street-vendors’ cries he hears a different song, the song of the Sirens, tempting his lover Albertine into the streets, ‘translating’ foodstuffs and trades into offers of sexual pleasure, and in particular promising to satisfy her desire for other women. Albertine’s lesbianism is the secret each withholds from the other—she refusing to admit what he refuses to tell her he already knows—and this secret is cried in the street.

Keywords:   Marcel Proust, La Prisonnière, À la recherche du temps perdu, cris de Paris, Albertine, lesbianism

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