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A Tale of Three Cities

November 30, 2011

We speak to Jethro Turner and Rosa Rankin-Gee, the founders of the new Parisian fine arts journal and book club

  • Text by Christophe Victoor

Interview by Christophe Victoor & Sofia Nebiolo

The latest edition to the Parisian nightlife is something a bit more intellectual. Presented by A Tale of Three Cities, a new fine arts journal, their Book Club is now in its 10th chapter at Le Carmen. Headed by Jethro Turner and Rosa Rankin-Gee, we speak to the two creative polymaths and publishers about supporting the arts and the European art golden triangle of Paris, Berlin and London.

Satellite Voices: What is a Tale of Three Cities?
Rose Rankin-Gee: A Tale of Three Cities is the first printed arts journal to join up the points of Europe’s golden triangle. The inaugural issue, a hand-numbered, limited edition run, features Zadie Smith, Joss McKinley and Todd Zuniga, and was launched in Paris on October 28 at a special edition of the Book Club.

Jethro Turner: The internet is great for sharing ideas, but as a print-only publication we think we can offer something a bit different, something you can really hold and treasure, and will want to keep on a shelf somewhere and pick up later. We really want to push the positives of producing beautiful print products in the 21st Century.

SV: What does Paris mean within the Golden Triangle?
Rose Rankin-Gee: Paris is a perfect point of contrast to the other cities. Berlin as we know it now was born in the 90s, but in Paris, so much remains unchanged. The buildings, the balconies, the old-school decadence, for me it’s gilding and glamour undercut with grime: it attracts a different type of writer or artist than the other two cities.

Jethro Turner: It's impossible not to fall into stereotypes when you talk about all three of these cities. Paris is inaccessible snooty, desirable, and impossible. Are London and Berlin the same? Probably, but, somehow this city stings you more when it slaps you, and makes your heart leap higher when it smiles at you. And yes, it inspires terrible romantic clichés, and even worse metaphors. 

SV: What can you find in Paris that you can’t find anywhere else?
Rose Rankin-Gee:
 A bar with marble pillars, unimaginably intricate ceiling roses, chandeliers and a gold birdcage. (This is my long and flowery way of saying Le Carmen).

Jethro Turner: Men that get up early in the morning, stuff the gutters with carpet, and turn the taps on to flood the streets.

SV: Can you explain the concept behind the Book Club?
Rose Rankin-Gee:
 It’s very simple. You bring a book you love and you swap it for a book someone else has loved. It means you get to talk to anyone you like, and it means the night stays with you. If you’re a slow reader, it might even keep you going until the next month. And you can fall in love over a book. There was a boy and girl who met at Book Club Chapter 2; by Chapter 3 they had matching tattoos.

Jethro Turner: Our concept was to reinvigorate the idea of the literary salon for the 21st Century, and do something for a slightly younger and more playful audience. Books are beautiful things, and people that read books are sexy, so we wanted to offer a platform for people to swap ideas, swap their favourite things to read, and maybe swap phone numbers. We're waiting for the first Book Club baby.  

SV: How does the Book club act as an extension of A Tale of Three Cities?
Rose Rankin-Gee:
 The journal, the Book Club: they both centre around sharing stories.

Jethro Turner: So many interesting people drop in and we've met some wonderful characters, but the journal is now feeding back into the Book Club.

SV: How does the Book Club at Le Carmen combine the past and the present?
Rose Rankin-Gee:
 We see it as a nod to the literary salons of old; it’s a gorgeous 19th century hotel particulier, steeped in cultural history because it was where Georges Bizet wrote Le Carmen, but yet the Book Club is entirely modern. It’s young people and it’s unintimidating; all you have to do is hold a book in your hand, and be open.

Jethro Turner: I've got very happy memories of a dear friend of mine propping up the bar with a beer, a book on Bulgarian Cold War espionage in his hand, chatting away to a group of much younger people. He was 80, and the people he was talking to must have been 25, but they were all engaging with the same ideas, with the same passion. A love of reading is a love of life, and it connects the present with the past. Oh, yeah, and the walls are golden, and the ceilings are covered in beautiful old frescos.

SV: Top favourite places to read in Paris?
Rose Rankin-Gee:
 In summer, in a park, on grass you’re not allowed to sit on. In winter, tucked under a table and next to someone I like, in whatever bar has the warmest heating.

Jethro Turner: Most of my reading is done tucked up in between the strapontin and the far-side door of a crowded métro carriage on ligne 4. I know it sounds precious, but I never sit.  

SV: Where do you live in Paris?
Rose Rankin-Gee:
 Just behind the Sacre-Coeur, where rue Custine meets rue Caulaincourt. My flat is bizarre. I have to climb a steel builder's ladder to get up to my bed.

Jethro Turner: I live in the 18me by Château Rouge, a rifle-shot away from Rosa. I moved out of the 18me for a while while I was househunting and my heart sank. I need the hills. I need to skip over half-chewed corn cobs as I weave through women selling sheep's heads. Barbès sits like a boundary between the bourgeois and the faintly barbaric. I like it.

SV: What creative youth cultures have you discovered through the Tale of Three Cities Journal?
Rosa & Jethro: We've discovered a whole bunch of talent. Come and pick up the journal on Friday December 2 at Le Carmen and see for yourselves.

Check out the Book Club's 10 Chapter at Le Carmen this Friday, December 2 @

34 Rue Duperré
75009 Paris

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