Paris Babylon: The Story of the Paris Commune

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9780670831319: Paris Babylon: The Story of the Paris Commune

Explaining how and why the revolutionary conflagration occurred, the Franco-Prussian War, and life in 1869 in Paris--a city obsessed with sex and money--an examination of the Paris Commune draws on various sources to evoke dramatic episodes of history.

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From Publishers Weekly:

This engrossing history of the French capital during the 1870s by Somerset Maugham Prize-winner Christiansen (Romantic Affinities) begins by reprinting an 1869 travel guide to "gay and beautiful Paris" published just before the fall of Emperor Napoleon III during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Relying on a foundation of excellent research, and exercising great narrative skill, the author details Parisian political and social life before and after the war. A city attractive to tourists because of its visionary civic planning, rich culture and sensuality was brought to its knees by a Prussian siege that resulted in widespread starvation and death. Angered by financial hardships imposed by a monarchist assembly, elected after peace was restored, working-class Parisians formed a government in 1871; their "Paris Commune" rebelled against the ruling powers. Life during the following two-month civil war, which ended with the defeat of the commune and the execution of its leaders, is vividly described in this gripping social history. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

Despite the title of this superb book, it is actually a chronicle of far more than the Paris Commune. Rather, Christiansen offers a cogent, beautifully written examination of the society that made the conflagration of the Commune almost inevitable. The Second Empire of Louis Napoleon was a study in irreconcilable contrasts: the glittering Paris boulevards hid some of the most wretched slums of Europe. Behind a veneer of bourgeois respectability, prostitutes and innumerable petty corruptions permeated all levels of society. At the apex of this collapsing Potemkin pyramid was Louis Napoleon--vain, impetuous, and conservative politically, but imbued with an absurd sense of destiny, which led him to schemes worthy of a utopian socialist. When Christiansen recounts the story of the Commune itself, he does so with a sense of detached horror as the grisly tragedy unfolds. For the author, it is a nightmarish but fitting climax to the grand guignol absurdity that this Babylon had become. Jay Freeman

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