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Nicole Rudick on Edition 7L.

The Karl Lagerfeld Diet, with its surefire psychological-preparation tips and eminently accessible gourmet recipes (tuna-and-blackberry mousse, anyone?), was inspired, according to Lagerfeld himself, by the legendary designer's inability to slip his plump physique into the reedy lines of Hedi Slimane's menswear. Now from the man who avers that "fashion is the healthiest motivation for losing weight" comes Edition 7L, a four-year-old imprint of the Steidl publishing house, named after Lagerfeld's bookstore in Paris ("Seven is my favorite number," he explains. "L is for librairie, Lille, and Lagerfeld. But sept elle, when spoken in French, also means 'It's her'").


It makes sense that 7L would produce stylish notebook-diaries made of red-leather-bound Monadnock Dulcet Smooth paper, as well as lavish celebrations of Slimane, Lou Reed, Odile Gilbert, and V magazine. And it's certainly not a stretch for the imprint to delve into the intimate work of Roni Horn, Christopher Wool, and poet Catherine Pozzi. But how did the ponytailed silver fox land on the notion of issuing facsimile editions of rare avant-garde photo-and-text volumes? Even more surprising is that each project--such as a wooden box containing six legendary Japanese photography publications from the '60 and '70s, and a limited edition of MoiVer's 1931 experimental photo-book Paris--is a straight reproduction; that is to say, one of the masters of art-fashion assimilations has allowed the original creation to stand for itself (even when MIT Press issued a handsome reprint of Vladimir Mayakovski's For the Voice, the focus was more on scholarly essays than on the book itself). But Lagerfeld's taste is nothing if not pastiche. In 1997, Vogue dubbed him the "unparalleled interpreter of the mood of the moment." And just last year his clothing line for budget retailer H & M sold out in one day in Manhattan, London, Milan, Munich, and Stockholm. So perhaps it's not so odd that Lagerfeld has added haute vulgarization to his publishing repertoire.

7L's most recent reprint endeavor is an unlimited edition of Ilya Ehrenburg's My Paris. Originally published in 1933 in Moscow by IZOGIZ (the State Publishing Institution for the Visual Arts) and designed by the inimitable El Lissitzky, the book comprises thirty-three short essays and a generous number of black-and-white photographs. Each written chapter provides a vignette of Ehrenburg's Paris--"The Seine," "Old Women," "The Workers," "Sunday," "The Homeless," "The Pissoirs"--in a style that the writer would undoubtedly dub lateral (after his Leica, which had a lateral viewfinder, allowing him to photograph "at 90 degrees"). Rather than compose a direct account of his experiences in the French capital, Ehrenburg seems to study his subject with a glancing eye, capturing not so much the details of faces, words, and events as blurred impressions. On dance halls: "A policeman is on duty by the entrance--a jealous lover may have a knife or a gun in his pocket. Dancing stirs the passions, and love is not always mutual." On art: "Paris has many artists and few statisticians. It's far easier to find portraits of people engaged in statistics than statistics about people engaged in art."


Overall, My Paris reads less like a factual presentation than a compilation of semijournalistic accounts of the prewar capital (Ehrenburg lived in Paris from 1908 to 1940, returning to the Soviet Union for four years in 1917). His best-known novel, The Thaw (1954)--equally hailed and derided--is a flatly written study of nascent post-Stalin Russia. In many ways very much the party dog, Ehrenburg sensed a shift in the wind and, not wanting to tail the pack, hammered out a fictional story whose import was as little concealed as that of Lenin's beloved What Is to Be Done? While there is also a certain kind of clipped reporter's phrasing in My Paris, it is leavened with an aspect that seems missing from Ehrenburg's novels--a delight in his subject. His Paris is a city lived in its streets, its history made out of doors, in boulevards and alleys, under bridges and along the Seine. In a place that "isn't a museum and ... isn't a cemetery ... your sense of time vanishes and you gaze for hours into the distance, thinking that this is one short moment." Perhaps Lagerfeld's affinity for Ehrenburg isn't as unlikely as it seems.

Nicole Rudick is managing editor of Bookforum.
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Title Annotation:BETWEEN THE LINES; Publishing House
Author:Rudick, Nicole
Publication:Artforum International
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jun 22, 2005
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