Alexander Fidel ’09

After graduating I lit out for Europe. I think the comp lit major gave me a kind of confidence about how much culture I could absorb and about what a unique experience that is. I wanted to go to a city that had a rich history in the past century, and it fell to Berlin in the end. During my three month term in the city, I got to prepare the gallery for international art fairs and work with artists in studio. The community in the industry was fascinating, and because of my comp lit background, the conceptual art that I dealt with was accessible and enjoyable. At work and at home, Berlin was rewarding. After work, I crossed the city looking at other galleries. When Berlin exploded with art about the Berlin Wall for the twentieth anniversary of its fall, I took my roommates to see what I knew about. We talked more personally about history and the life of a city during those weeks than I had with anyone. At the end of that month, I made them all their first Thanksgiving dinner.

I might have stayed in Berlin had I not traveled to Paris for the last art fair. Living beyond France's border and tied to it by blood, I always cherished a romanticized vision if it. A study abroad term in Paris my junior year of college hedged back many idealizations, but I attribute a strong core of Fracophilia to coursework in French thought and my thesis on French 20th century fiction. I found the city beautiful and the lifestyle more seductive than I remembered.

I left Berlin to work and live in a Paris artist’s studio in the 2009-2010 winter. It lacked a lot in the way of comfort but the resident company was excellent: an actor, a ballet dancer, two writers, two students at the Louvre, and the artist-owner’s painting assistant. We did life drawing with the artist a few times a week, saw every free museum show, play, and concert we could dig up and broke them all down after with what we knew of the arts in the French tradition...I applied doggedly for a position at the International Herald Tribune, first in administration, but with the ultimate goal of writing. If I hadn't had the experience of the thesis behind me, I doubt I would have had the confidence to pitch any kind of article. As it turned out, one of my stories was accepted, and two years out of school, I got to be published in a large circulation newspaper. That is an excellent feeling, and I owe it in large part to excellent comp lit professors who I remember not just for instruction, but encouragement, in school and after.

Alexander Fidel has an article published in the NY Times.