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 Hazan’s range of cultural, literary and historical references is convincingly detailed; his grasp of radical politics is intellectually stimulating; and his revelations about how ordinary French lives dealt with tough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

  • 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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  • Eric Hazan: 'Paris: the Commune overjoyed'


    Journeying from Tahrir in 2011 to Tiananmen in 1989, passing via the Paris Commune-era Hôtel de Ville, Libération is spending three weeks surveying the now-symbolic places where citizens defied the powers-that-be in the name of democracy and individual freedom. Today we look at the square in front of Paris’ Hôtel de Ville.

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  • Eric Hazan responds to David Bell’s review of A People’s History of the French Revolution in the Guardian


    David Bell's hostile review of Eric Hazan’s work is not surprising: clearly, the tradition of “people’s histories”, inaugurated by A.L. Morton’s A People’s History of England (1938) and continued, amongst others, by Howard Zinn and Chris Harman, is unlikely to find favour in the corridors of Princeton’s History Department – at least, since the retirement of Arno Mayer. However, aside from the silly gripe about the cover image (ever heard of artistic licence, David?) and the contemptuous tone of the piece, it is worth dwelling on the sneering reference to “the eccentric Trotskyite [sic.]-anarchist militant Daniel Guérin”. 

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Other books by Eric Hazan Translated by David Fernbach