If you’re anything like me as a reader, there are times when you really want to read something shorter which you can finish in one sitting. And having fought my way through the DDM book, I confess I was in that sort of mood… Fortunately, the TBR had the ideal read for me, by an author whose slim works have given me great delight in the past. The author is Dave Haslam, and I’ve previously read and loved his “A Life in Thirty Five Boxes” and “My Second Home“, both of which are part of his ‘Art Decades’ series which is published by Confingo Press, a lovely indie. Haslam is an excellent writer, bringing a wonderfully sharp eye to his subject and capturing place, time and events brilliantly. I have all of the books released so far in this series, and the new work is “Adventures Everywhere“; subtitled ‘Pablo Picasso’s Paris Nightlife‘, it does indeed explore that topic over its 66 pages – but it draws in so much more.

Picasso moved from his native Spain to Paris in October 1900, so at a time when parts of the city were more like outlying villages. Montmartre in particular, where he settled, was home to a whole community of artists, writers and bohemians; crucially, it was also cheap to live there, so ideal for an impoverished painter. There was a vibrant nightlife and cafe culture, plenty of ladies of the night and the surroundings were the perfect subjects and stimulation for the young artist.

Curiosity was key to the creativity around Picasso in Paris; a creative flow of ideas.

Haslam takes an interesting approach in his exploration of Picasso and his surroundings; he takes us through Picasso’s life, portraying the world around the painter, his friends, acquaintances and lovers, and of course the clubs, bars, resturants and the like which the artist would have visited. Inevitably, we meet up with other famous Parisians, from Cocteau to Apollinaire, Rousseau to Satie, and this wider look at the city shows just how intensely creative its residents were. Inevitably, wars affect the city and its artists; Apollinaire died in 1918 of Spanish flu, having been weakened by an injury in the First World War; and the Occupation of WW2 affected Picasso with his cafe life being disrupted.

Of courses, Picasso’s behaviour, particularly towards women, could be reprehensible and Haslam never shies away from showing the man as he was; and he gives due credit to those female artists whose light was unfairly dimmed by being around Picasso. Inevitably, as the artist aged and the 20th century moved on, his fame grew and those early years of struggle and camaraderie were lost.

What’s particularly interesting to me is the comparisons which Haslam draws with other groups of creative people over the decades. As he says:

Every generation comes to identify its version of the Bateau-Lavoir years, the years of hunger and creativity, courage and daring. Every generation makes its own culture, finds its own cafes, pubs, clubs, coffee bars, greasy spoons, cheap gathering spaces and takes on the world armed with fervent iconoclasm, and desperate for new forms of expression…

So perhaps it’s unavoidable that any group of creatives in their early years are drawn together and stimulate each other’s work, fragmenting as their life and art changes and develops; certainly that was the case with Picasso and his contacts.

Inevitably, this is one of those books which sends you off in different directions, wanting to explore all sorts of interesting things referenced in it; from Apollinaire’s poetry, particularly “Zone” in its translation by Beckett (and why is there so little of Apollinaire’s work available in decent translation???) to George Moore’s “Confessions of a Young Man”, there is much in the book which warrants investigation – I have a list to prove it…

“Adventure Everywhere” (which takes its title from an Apollinaire poem) was quite fascinating from start to finish. It’s a book which, despite its smaller size, is packed full of fascinating insights and all sorts of clever resonances between the past and more recent times. Haslam knows his subject well, and with his breadth of vision is able to draw in all kind of interesting facts about subsequent generations and how they too were part of Parisian night-life. Even though much of the Paris Haslam is writing about has now been demolished and replaced with unpleasant modern things (Primark!!), the poignant ending of the book lets you mentally squint a little and see the past. As you can tell, I loved this book as much as the others I’ve read from Haslam’s pen, and I’m just glad I still have some of the ‘Art Decades’ series on the TBR – highly recommend the whole lot!