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The Invention of Paris: A History Told in Footsteps

A radical guide to Paris through art, literature and revolution.
The Invention of Paris is a tour through the streets and history of the French capital under the guidance of radical Parisian author and publisher Eric Hazan.

Hazan reveals a city whose squares echo with the riots, rebellions and revolutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Combining the raconteur’s ear for a story with a historian’s command of the facts, he introduces an incomparable cast of characters: the literati, the philosophers and the artists—Balzac, Baudelaire, Blanqui, Flaubert, Hugo, Maney, and Proust, of course; but also Doisneau, Nerval and Rousseau.

It is a Paris dyed a deep red in its convictions. It is haunted and vitalized by the history of the barricades, which Hazan retells in rich detail. The Invention of Paris opens a window on the forgotten byways of the capital’s vibrant and bloody past, revealing the city in striking new colors.

Reviews

  • “Hazan has tossed aside the tourist brochures and unearthed a radical, hidden history of Paris at street level. Hazan’s range of cultural, literary and historical references is convincingly detailed; his grasp of radical politics is intellectually stimulating; and his revelations about how ordinary French lives dealt with tough conditions bring resonance to the “spirit of place and the spirit of time” in which complex urban issues rise and fall.”
  • “A wondrous book, either to be read at home with a decent map, or carried about sur place through areas no tourists bother with.”
  • The Invention of Paris is one of the greatest books about the city anyone has written in decades, towering over a crowded field, passionate and lyrical and sweeping and immediate.”
  • “Hazan wants to rescue individual moments from general forgetting and key sites from the bland homogenisation of international city development; he is also a passionate left-wing historian seeking to rescue the truth of Paris’s revolutionary past from the historiographical equivalent of Haussmannisation—the blasting through and laying waste to the lives and memories of the unimportant, the marginalised, the losers of the last two centuries.”
  • “Passionate and erudite”
  • “Thorough, intricate and estimable”
  • “Few will be able to resist ... Hazan's brick-by-brick account of the city's history of strife and political posturing is riveting.”
  • “[Hazan] stalks the capital, fulminating about the nineteenth and twentieth centuries' artistic and political rebellions.”
  • “Do you want to be happy? Buy this book and take a stroll.”
  • “Not just a history book, but a guide to what makes Paris the melting pot it is today ... A wholly worthwhile read.”

Blog

  • 'No to National Unity!'

    We still feel disbelief, sadness and anger over the hateful attack against Charlie Hebdo and the shameless anti-Semitic massacre that followed. We were disgusted to see artists being slaughtered because of how they freely expressed themselves: a killing perpetrated in the name of a reactionary ideology.

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  • Eric Hazan: 'A little cynicism goes a long way'

    The writer and lifelong resident of Paris on last weekend's massive 'Je suis Charlie' rally that took place in the city in reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attack.


    The Republic

    It seems that Sunday’s crowd at the Place de la République was as big as the one on 28 April 1944, which welcomed Marshal Pétain to the Hôtel de Ville as he attended the funeral service for the victims of Allied bombings. Apart from war fever (like the throngs of people shouting ‘To Berlin!’ in 1914), the great moments of unanimity have always been for burials – the funerals of Victor Hugo, Pierre Overney, Jean-Paul Sartre, or Edith Piaf. Sunday’s demonstration is of this same register – what animates the crowd is purely sentimental, the satisfaction of coming together to express our vague desires for unity and reconciliation. As if mere numbers of demonstrators sufficed to conjure up what we don’t have, namely a society that takes as its goal our common well-being.

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  • Eric Hazan: ‘The Revolution isn’t over yet’

    Text and interview by Camille Polloni and Aurélie Champagne.

    The writer and La Fabrique editor Eric Hazan makes a bet: ‘under this government there could be major movements’.

    The 76 year-old Eric Hazan arrives on foot from his makeshift office on the heights of nearby Belleville, from where he directs the publisher La Fabrique. This short man, with the physique of a print worker, instantly gets on familiar terms.

    I call everyone ‘tu’ and not ‘vous’, all the time. Except those who I think aren’t going to call me ‘tu’ in reply.

    Born to a stateless mother (herself born in Palestine) and a Jewish father of Egyptian origin, Eric Hazan has led many lives, having previously been a surgeon in Lebanon and an editor at Beaux-Arts Hazan, inherited from his father, before it was bought out by Lagardère.

    Click here for a French-language video of the interview with Eric Hazan.

    A writer, translator of Edward Saïd, champion of Palestine and lover of Paris, Eric Hazan began his small activist publisher La Fabrique’s catalogue in 1998 with works by the philosopher Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou and Edward Saïd, followed by a mass of essays and theoretical texts.

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Other books by Eric Hazan Translated by David Fernbach