A rhetorician . . . would fail to account for the intensely lyrical voice that both heightens and deepens every sentence, at times attaining a kind of Joycean beauty. . . . Part of this force comes from the images that fly off Helprin’s sentences like glitter from a sparkler. . . . Helprin’s generosity of language allows room for missteps as well as brilliance. His Paris does exist in the present tense, irresistibly, undeniably real and alive, as though summoned by its creator rather than imagined. In this the novel performs perfectly the function of literature, which is not to escape the world but to enter completely into it.
– The New York Times Book Review
In most of the novels written in the United States since World War II, we find characters who have little or nothing to believe in. . . . They occupy themselves by juggling a multitude of minor truths, none of which is strong enough to contend with the absolute truth of mortality. . . . Mark Helprin is one of those rare writers for whom this is not the case. . . .This is true in his enchanting new novel, Paris in the Present Tense, a ballad to the cardinal virtue of loyalty. . . . Despite the catastrophes and forebodings that beset the story. . . Paris in the Present Tense is joyful and celebratory. Part of the pleasure of the novel is in its ecstatic asides, eulogizing the glories of Paris or the transcendent power of music. . . . This passionate and uplifting book produces a kind of music that few living writers know how to create.
– The Wall Street Journal
A masterpiece filled with compassion and humanity. Perfect for the pure pleasure of reading.
– Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)
Helprin, author of the indelible Winter’s Tale and A Soldier of the Great War, has always been most comfortable in the epic mode, retaining a classicist’s eye for beauty while preserving enough of the contemporary world to speak to the present. His prose has an aching beauty that stems from his unembarrassed devotion to tradition and limpid sentiment.
– The Boston Globe
The ironic mode, one of prevailing literature’s prevailing orthodoxies, is of no interest or use to Mark Helprin. His fiction, while flirting with the downright metaphysical, aims directly for . . . the heart. His concerns are with truth and beauty. . . .[his] ambitions are grand. The reader finishes Paris in the Present Tense with the sense of having read a eulogy to important and neglected mysteries, “self-evident and yet elusive of explanation,” and convinced that Helprin has had a pretty robust go at tracking them.
Above all else, this well-plotted and engaging novel – filled with thoughtful ruminations on life accompanied by sumptuous writing – is a love letter to Paris. And writer Mark Helprin seems to know the city as well as any Frenchman. . . .Grand in scale with one interesting, fullydeveloped character after another . . . . Paris in the Present Tense deserves to be read and devoured. It is nearly a perfect contemporary novel.
– New York Journal of Books
Mark Helprin should win the Nobel Prize.
A fable from a master. . .a very ambitious novel, to be read at many levels and thought about for a long time. Mark Helprin is his own master, telling a story that is in part a thriller and in part a reflection on the way of the world, its rights and its wrongs. In intention, he is closer to Victor Hugo or Alexandre Dumas than to any contemporary novelist I know of.
– National Review
This revenge tale, wrapped within a contemporary historical novel, provides a morphology of the type of mind that these days is too scarce. The mind belongs to an old man, with ‘contemporary’ in this case meaning the duration of his rich, utterly focused, consciousness. We learn that history by how the man sees and hears (in waves, especially waves of music, “the voice of God”), by what and how he loves, and by increasingly distant flashbacks (harrowing, poignant, joyful). Helprin can multi-task with the best, moving fluently from one layer of time-space narrative to another, story-telling as three-dimensional chess. (And reader beware: there are few minor characters.)
– New English Review
It is the fluidity of Helprin’s prose that makes this novel of ideas so utterly captivating. . . . Helprin’s principal achievement lies in his subtle, often profound exploration of religious intolerance, capitalism, and technological advances in stark contrast to Jules’ [his protagonist] inspiring humanism. These themes are never didactic but instead build on the metaphor of the Seine with its treacherous current, whirlpools, and half-submerged tree trunks churning just below the surface while Jules glides skillfully along in his delicate “shell.”
– Booklist (Starred Review)
Gripping and often poignant, Paris in the Present Tense was worth the wait. . . . If America, France, and the rest of the West succeed in revitalizing their political and literary culture, one sign of it will be more writing that approaches the elegance, intelligence, and grandeur of Helprin’s work.
– City Journal
Highly recommended. . . . Buoyed by Helprin’s irresistible prose, this sleek novel weaves a tangled thread, tackling weight themes with brio. An addictive page-turner that will leave you reeling.
– France Today
In Mark Helprin’s latest, a master novelist confronts music and mortality. . . . Helprin is an American treasure. . . . There are lesser, younger lights working the mines, but we’re talking modern legends here. . . . If only a few hundred other writers had followed his lead, we might have been spared years and years of jilted lover’s breath turning into vampiric butterflies and dead grandmothers appearing from the jungle haze.
– The Federalist
Paris in the Present Tense . . . offer[s] the reader passage to a literary landscape of gripping narrative, radiant descriptions, a rich tableau of memorable characters and achingly moving insights. . . . Like a train traveling across a wide, expansive countryside, that stops at numerous stations along the way, the story carries the reader stirringly forward while delving into, exploring, and raising multiple themes. All are timely. Many are timeless.
– Canadian Jewish News
Mark Helprin’s novels are long, luxurious reads, with vivid descriptions of settings and characters that draw readers in. . . . Paris in the Present Tense is Helprin at his best. . . .There is nothing outdated about Helprin’s prescription for our future health, which will require a recollection of the world’s beauty, and our desire to love and be loved in return. In the midst of injustice and betrayals, the author holds out the possibility of a perfected love and justice. . . . Helprin’s beautiful language . . . . descriptions of cityscapes, ungainly insurance salesmen, and insistent ice cream peddlers are crafted with a loving eye that allows goodness to shine in the most unlikely of places, compelling readers to take note of things and people they might normally dismiss.
The Claremont Review of Books