DAVIS WAS THE ONLY ONE TO APPROACH PARIS CLEAR-EYED
major. Sontag, by contrast, who arrived in 1957 on an unaffiliated scholarship and had to find her own way around town, took sanctuary in the company of American expatriates, even while she luxuriated in the city’s embrace of the intellectual life. With the self-discipline that marked her, she taught herself French, hung out at cinemas and cafes, and came into her own, intellectually and sexually.
Each, it seems, came in search of a fantasy of Paris. Bouvier and Sontag managed to keep the dream intact; Davis was the only one to approach the city clear-eyed, saw through her own fantasy and would later reap her reward in the homage of the entire country.
Bouvier had grown up with a family fantasy about aristocratic French ancestry reinforced by a fake history compiled by her paternal