Episode 40: Alexander Chee on the Power of the 19th Century Parisian Courtesan


This week we go on a sumptuous and extravagant journey back in time to Second Empire Paris with Alexander Chee. We were lucky enough to record this conversation live at Soho House in New York.  It was the perfect setting to celebrate Alex’s epic novel The Queen of the Night which illuminates the life of legendary Opera soprano Lilliet Berne, from her humble beginnings as an orphan on the American Frontier to her transformation into a dazzling fixture in the court of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, before the fall of the empire. Add to this alluring setting, Lilliet’s time in a circus troupe, her fashion “internship” amidst the hidden tunnels of the Tuileries palace, and, her friendship with the Italian spy Comtesse de Castiglione (also Napoleon’s mistress) and you’ve got a delicious story that unfolds over decades and keeps you gripped till the end.

We hope you love this episode. Do let us know what you think on Twitter @litupshow and Instagram @litupshow.

Thanks for listening!

xo Angie


Buy The Queen of the Night at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at your local independent bookstore.

Alexander Chee is the author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, He is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and an editor at large at VQR. His essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Slate, Guernica, NPR and Out, among others. He is winner of a 2003 Whiting Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in prose and a 2010 MCCA Fellowship. He lives in New York City, where he curates the Dear Reader series at Ace Hotel New York.