The Paris Review

Why the French Love Horses

Years ago, the German photographer Jaroslav Poncar told me about running into the legendary French anthropologist Dr. Michel Peissel in Himalaya in the seventies. “People were saying, ‘Peissel is coming! It’s Peissel.’ So I went out to meet them—Peissel and his nice blonde companion,” Poncar added with a grin. Later, in Paris, Peissel and Poncar ended up living on the same street, and Peissel would hang around Poncar’s studio. He was, Poncar said, “a braggart.” Peissel would do things like forget to mention the two mathematicians he met during his seminal travels on the steppes—as if he were the only European to venture so far afield. “And! Michel did discover that horse,” Poncar had sniffed, referring to an archaic Tibetan breed called the Nangchen, which Peissel is credited with bringing to light. “But the French love horses,” Poncar offered by way of explanation. I didn’t. Recently, I attended the ninth edition of the equestrian competition Saut Hermès in Paris. There, people again and again recounted this fact: “The French love horses.”

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Paris Review

The Paris Review6 min read
Poetry Rx: Then the Letting Go
In our column Poetry Rx, readers write in with a specific emotion, and our resident poets—Sarah Kay, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Schwartz—take turns prescribing the perfect poems to match. This column has run weekly for over a year, and now, our dear and
The Paris Review12 min read
Taking on Edward Abbey: An Interview with Amy Irvine
Amy Irvine (Courtesy Torrey House Press) Amy Irvine is a writer and a mother, a competitive rock climber, an activist, a caregiver, and a truth teller. (She is also a friend.) Her latest book, Desert Cabal, is a fiercely tender and provocative respon
The Paris Review4 min read
Something Always Remains
Some people collect rocks. Others collect stamps. Peter Merlin, a former NASA archivist who’s become a leading expert on military aircraft and Area 51, collects the physical remnants of government secrets. As he explains in the artist Trevor Paglen’s