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.


  • “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 Hazan’s range of cultural, literary and historical references is convincingly detailed; his grasp of radical politics is intellectually stimulating; and his revelations about how ordinary French lives dealt with tough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.”


  • 'The offensive against Belleville' by Eric Hazan

    Today we mark the release of Eric Hazan's A History of the Barricade by publishing his analysis of proposed selling off of 48 Rue Ramponeau, a street in the 20th arrondissement in the Belleville district of Paris. In his cultural history of the barricade, Hazan traces the barricade's use in the days of the Paris Commune: Rue Ramponeau is one of the streets of Paris that

    compete for the honour of having hosted the final barricade of the Commune. For Lissagaray, ‘the last barricade of the May days was in the rue Ramponeau. For a quarter of an hour a single Federal defended it. Thrice he broke the staff of the Versaillese flag hoisted on the barricade of the rue de Paris [now de Belleville]. As a reward for his courage, this last soldier of the Commune succeeded in escaping.’ Legend has it that this soldier was Lissagaray himself.

    Hazan explores the effects of embourgeoisement to the people of Belleville—this is not the first time officials have tried to sell off parts of the neighbourhood—and reflects on the history of protest up to the successful local resistance of the 1990s.

    (Photograph: Barricaderamponeau, Wikimedia Commons)

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  • The beauty of the commons: Wark on Communal Luxury

    Anarchist thought has lately picked up a rather worrying infestation of reactionary themes, such as a hyper-macho celebration of eternal combat, in which all that matters is the authentic act of aggressive self-assertion. It isn’t the first time. In this case, it’s a matter of paying too much attention to a scholastic, high theory tradition in which known Nazis such as Schmitt and Heidegger are treated with a respect that betrays the utter corruption of continental philosophy in its waning years.

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  • A France For All, by Alain Badiou, Sylvain Lazarus and Natacha Michel

    Alain Badiou, Sylvain Lazarus and Natacha Michel examine the round-up of the sans-papiers in France, tracing it back to the tradition instated by the Vichy government when it called on Jews to register at the prefectures, the selfsame, shameful practice by the government "of lying and surveillance." The following post was orginally published by Le Monde on 9 December, 1997, and is translated by David Broder.

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Other books by Eric Hazan Translated by David Fernbach