Between 1869 and 1875, Paris was known to the world as "the new Babylon." A city obsessed with sex and money and ruled by the ailing tyrant Louis Napoleon and his ruthless wife Eugenie, Paris was a place of intensity, violence and volatility. Tracing Europe's most glittering capital as it tettered on the verge of the Franco-Prussian War and the horror that ensued, Christiansen evokes one of the most dramatic periods of modern history. photos.
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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.
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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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Book Description Penguin Books, 1996. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110140129804
Book Description Penguin Books. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0140129804 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW6.0059840
Book Description Penguin Books, 1996. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0140129804