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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Virtual Book Tour - The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy

     A light breeze entered through the open windows of the third-floor life-drawing classroom the following afternoon of September 1, 1939. Marc could not quite figure out if the room at one time had been a drawing room, dressing room, or parlor. The gold leafing of the plaster molds was barely visible. The mirrors held cracks in the gilding. He knew it was not a valuable room; otherwise, it would never have become home to an art class. The entire school might be held within the servants’ quarters, but Marc preferred not to ask and instead allowed his imagination to run wild.
     “They say in the papers nearly 16,000 children have now left the city,” Marc overheard from a discussion next to him.
     “I believe they are now passing out the gas masks,” another student said in a hushed tone.
     “Take out a pencil and a sheet of paper. Place it to one side of your desk where you cannot see it,” the older instructor told the students. “Now, please, eyes forward. Marie, can you please remove your robe and give the class a comfortable pose? I want you to draw the contour of Marie’s body, without looking at the paper. This exercise will be seven minutes.” Marie gazed confidently at the nude, auburn hair with brown eyes, her figure full and hourglass.
     “Why can’t I look at the paper?” a student complained from the rear of the room.
     “How will I know if I am drawing her right?” one of the female students echoed.
     “You won’t know,” the instructor retorted.
     “This makes no sense to me,” another complained.
     “This is the final? You have led us to a point of drawing without looking?” another complained bitterly.
     “Do as I ask. And now, silence. My God, all of this worry and fuss over a certificate of attendance. You will get your paper but, right now, focus on Marie. Draw her slowly. Do everything you can to overcome the desire to check your work. Do not look at your hand, paper, or the pencil. Just look at the model.”
     When the instructor turned his back, nearly everyone in the class looked, including Marc. The temptation inside him became overwhelming but the glance at his page did nothing to relieve his frustrations, fears, or doubts.
     “Who just looked?” There was silence. “Liars,” he chuckled with a smirk. The time was finally over. “Now, let’s take a look.”
     Sighs and murmurs filled the room. Students glanced away from their drawings. The man in front of Marc turned his paper over.
     “What do you see?” the instructor demanded.
     “I see a really shitty drawing,” a woman in the middle of the class said, her tone sharp.
     “Excellent. Who else?”
     “Mine looks good, not perfect, but good,” another student replied.
     “Were you looking?” he asked.
     “No, I did just as you asked,” the student answered.
     “Amazing. Maybe later you can demonstrate for us this miracle gift you have,” the instructor said. A few laughs floated amongst the students. “The purpose of this exercise is not to draw what you think you see, but what you actually see. Most of the time when we draw, we are focused upon the paper instead of the model. You look up with a glance, and then look down at your paper and continue to work. But you are not drawing the model. You are drawing what you think you see as the model. This exercise is not about training your hand, but your eyes. Unless you really see your model with all your sight, you are just drawing from your imagination.”
     Marc studied his own poor example. The shape he had drawn was nearly unrecognizable as a human form. He felt irate with himself as he stared at the distorted proportions and contorted lines.
     A sound could be heard outside in the hallway, muffled by the door.
     “This is the foundation of my class if you continue with me at École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. You know how to draw, but you lack the ability to see,” he continued.
     The noise became far greater outside the class. People in the hall spoke loudly; the stomping feet of someone running down the corridor grew closer.
     “Marie, please replace your robe,” the instructor said, and then walked toward the noise.
As the door opened, Marc heard, “Guerre! La guerre!”
     “Stop! Silence, please. I have a class in session. Have you gone mad?” Students from other classes poured into the hallway.
     “No, sir. I was told to tell everyone of the war.”
     “What war?” he asked.
     “France. France is at war with Germany. If you have a radio, turn it on. They are calling up the troops.” The students gasped, and their teacher stood in the doorway, stunned.
That night, Marc’s roommate packed for the front. “It is all a farce. I am going to be bored to death,” he complained bitterly. “France is not Czechoslovakia, or Austria.”
     “The war is not official yet. France and Britain made demands, but nothing is official until the third,” Marc said to him.

David Leroy did extensive research on the German occupation of France for his debut novel The Siren of Paris. This historical novel follows the journey of one American from medical student, to artist, to political prisoner at Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War II.

Marc, a French born American student, never suspected that he would become trapped in German occupied France when he came to Paris in the summer of 1939 to study art. While smuggling a  downed airman out of the American Hospital, through the Paris resistance underground, his life is plunged into total darkness when someone he trusts becomes a collaborator agent for the Gestapo. Marc then must fight to save his soul when he is banished to the “Fog and the Night” of Buchenwald, where he struggles with guilt over the consequences of having his trust betrayed.

You can purchase The Siren of Paris from Amazon --  and learn more about this author and novel at

For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit -- Book Tour - The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy

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