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An actor, media guru and blogger darling, Eric Miyeni is also a photographer and writer. Published by Pan MacMillan with the special help of the Embassy of France in South Africa, “A letter from Paris” – excerpts here – is his last book. In this work, the author recalls a fortnight he spent wandering in the French capital city a few years ago. Through a dozen of lively, sometimes bitter-sweet essays and stunning black and white pictures, Miyeni evokes the experience and coups de coeur of a black South African lost in the timeless City of Light.
Rugby, but not only
It all starts with rugby – what else? “It's about eleven at night and it's quiet here in Paris, very quiet. The Springboks have just demolished an underdog 37-13 and the French are well known for their love and support of the underdog...” Miyeni's trip in Paris is just beginning. He has addressed the conference he initially came for. His agenda is blank. He decides to embark for a tour of some sort, a two weeks long stroll, a direct experience of the French reality. With no pre-established plan, he will wander about, questioning the French past or day-to-day pleasures with genuine candour. Much later, he will even write a book about it – but he does not know it yet. And it will not only be about rugby.
Except for the gorgeous photographs that constitute a travel diary per se, the book's main interest is perhaps the constant parallels it draws between European and South African realities. Take Le Marais as an example, the Paris former Jewish quarter that has become a famous gay area. Stunned by the change, Miyeni recalls that this has happened in Johannesburg too: a Jewish quarter accommodating others to the subsequent exclusion of its initial occupants. “Yeoville was a Jewish area that became black virtually overnight” he underlines with much ingenuousness. The author conveys constantly to such criss-crossings all along its “Letter from Paris”, giving the reader new perspectives and much insight on the history of both countries.
A metaphor of its content, the book's publication is the result of joint efforts between its South African publishing house and the French cultural network in South Africa. It has benefited from “l'aide à la publication”, a mechanism designed to support African publishers wishing to issue original works related to France – or, on the opposite, to French publishing houses interested in bringing out books exploring South African topics. With “A letter from Paris”, it has not missed its goal.
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