Photographer Brassai: Background information when reading Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

by Francine Prose

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose X
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2014, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2015, 448 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Photographer Brassai

Print Review

Self-Portrait of BrassaiIn Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, Francine Prose bases the character Gabor Tsenyi on real life photographer Gyula Halász. Known by the pseudonym Brassai, Halasz was born in 1899 in the Transylvanian (later Hungary, now Romania) city of Brasso. His father was a university professor of French literature and their family spent some time living in France, where Brassai eventually emigrated in the 1920s in order to pursue a career as a journalist. He started taking photos as a way to supplement his freelance income.

While in Paris he lived in the famous Montparnasse quarter among such bohemian greats as Henry Miller, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Jean Genet. He eventually began to devote himself entirely to photography and particularly to photographing Paris's seamier nightlife. He was enraptured with the play of light and dark in the clubs and on the streets of the city. Because he started out with equipment that was outdated – maybe even because it was so outdated – he was forced to develop his own technique. According to biographers he had to blend into the background to the extent that his subjects forgot he was present. There, in the semi darkness, he would lurk until the shot appeared in his lens, then in a burst of light and acrid smoke he would catch the most atmospheric photos of his day. The result was a distinctive avant garde style that set itself apart from the trends of his time.

He said, "Photography in our time leaves us with a grave responsibility. While we are playing in our studios with broken flowerpots, oranges, nude studies and still lifes, one day we know that we will be brought to account: life is passing before our eyes without our ever having seen a thing."

In addition to his daring photos of prostitutes, lesbians, transvestites and street cleaners, he had connections among French aristocracy and literati whom he also photographed in his signature style. He remained in Paris during World War II but, because work as a photographer was difficult, he turned his skills to drawing, painting and sculpture. His photographic career resumed after the War and continued into the late 1960s.

Brassai received numerous awards and recognitions for his work and published several books in his lifetime, including collections of his photos and his recollections of conversations with friend Pablo Picasso. He also produced a movie in the 1950s. Brassai died in 1984 and is buried in Paris in the Montparnasse Cemetery.

Many of Brassai's photographs can be found at Atget Photography.

Self-Portrait of Brassai.

Article by Donna Chavez

This article was originally published in May 2014, and has been updated for the May 2015 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...
  • Book Jacket: All the Names They Used for God
    All the Names They Used for God
    by Anjali Sachdeva
    Pre-publication press has already compared Anjali Sachdeva to Kelly Link and other genre-blending ...
  • Book Jacket: Look Alive Out There
    Look Alive Out There
    by Sloane Crosley
    After a brief (and thoroughly enjoyable) foray into fiction (with her 2015 novel The Clasp), Sloane ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Other People's Houses
    by Abbi Waxman

    A hilarious and poignant novel about four families and the affair that changes everything.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.