9781844674114-frontcover

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 Hazan’s range of cultural, literary and historical references is convincingly detailed; his grasp of radical politics is intellectually stimulating; and his revelations about how ordinary French lives dealt with tough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

  • "Hazan mightn’t know it—though I suspect he does—but what he’s sketching out here is a new urban question": Eric Hazan's Paris Sous Tension reviewed by Manchester Cities

    Andy Merrifield, Professor of Geography at the University of Manchester, has written a glowing review of Eric Hazan's Paris Sous Tension, where he goes in great detail about Hazan's incisive analysis of modern-day Paris:

    What’s happening in Paris, then, is a revealing microcosm of a larger macrocosm. Paris is a cell-form of a bigger urban tissuing that’s constituted by a mosaic of centers and peripheries scattered all over the globe, a patchwork quilt of socio-spatial and racial apartheid that goes for Paris as for Palestine, for London as for Rio, for Johannesburg as for New York. […] Nowadays, the poor global South exists in North-East Paris, or in Queens and Tower Hamlets. And the rich global North lives high above the streets of Mumbai, and flies home in helicopters to its penthouses in Jardins and Morumbi, Sao Paulo.

    And, possibly, its future:
    Like Occupy, Hazan’s notion of insurrection represents a hypothesis, a daring hunch that, for people who care about democracy, for people who know our economic and political system is kaput, change is likely to come from within, from within excluded and impoverished communities, through collective experimentation and struggle, through action and activism that overcomes its own limits, that experiments with itself and the world.

    Visit Cities@Manchester to read the full review.
  • Verso's guide to political walking

    A bestseller in France, A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B — the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble — and reveals what they say about us. 

    Inspired by this brilliant and erudite new bookout this month on Verso, we present Verso's updated guide to political walking.

    1. A Philosophy of Walking - Frédéric Gros

    Gros illuminates a new philosophical history of walking, and provides new ways of navigating and interacting with one's environment politically. Walking has long been held as the key to opening the mind, reconnecting with one’s self and nature. From Kierkegaard to Kant to Kerouac, some of the finest thinkers of history credit a good walk with inspiration for their ideas (dating back to the Aristotle's 'peripatetic' lectures) Gros’s new book details how this most basic of human transportation can cause commonsensical-looking things to be unfounded and certain improbable-looking things to be true. Gros details how walking can help us join as one with the natural world, and liberate us from crises and stresses of identity. 

    2. Explore Everything - Bradley L. Garrett

    It is assumed that every inch of the world has been explored and charted; that there is nowhere new to go. But perhaps it is the everyday places around us—the cities we live in—that need to be rediscovered. Bradley L. Garrett has evaded urban security in order to experience the city in ways beyond the boundaries of conventional life. He calls it ‘place hacking’: the recoding of closed, secret, hidden and forgotten urban space to make them realms of opportunity.

    The book is also a manifesto, combining philosophy, politics and adventure, on our rights to the city and how to understand the twenty-first century metropolis.

    3. The View from the Train - Patrick Keiller

    In his sequence of films, Patrick Keiller retraces the hidden story of the places where we live, the cities and landscapes of our everyday lives. Referencing writers such as Benjamin and Lefebvre, this collection follows his career since the late 1970s, exploring themes including the surrealist perception of the city; the relationship of architecture and film; how cities change over time, and how films represent this; as well as accounts of cross-country journeys involving historical figures, unexpected ideas and an urgent portrait of post-crash Britain.

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  • “Beyond the Barricades”— The City and the New Protest Movements

    Michael Sayeau, contributor to Restless Cities, has written on the changing forms of demonstration across the world today for Frieze. Sayeau considers the various methods employed by groups such as UKUncut, the August rioters, Greek rioters and Arab Spring revolutions, and in turn sheds light on the Occupy movement. Sayeau draws inspiration for his enquiry from Eric Hazan's The Invention of Paris, a vibrant tour through the revolutionary past of the streets of Paris, a city shaped by the history of the barricades:

    Hazan argues that the barricades - emblematic of both the practicalities and the romance of Parisian protest and a persistent symbol of civic unrest - were products of their time in all of its social, technological and political aspects. In a story that most of us are familiar with, their emergence and persistence sparked a reactionary revolution in urban planning and architecture, which to this day defines many of our modern cities.

    But in recent months, as a wave of civic protest has washed over the world from Athens to Syria and from Spain to Egypt, a strange reversal has taken place in the practices of urban demonstrations - a reversal that suggests that nearly two centuries' worth of protest tactics and policing strategies are undergoing a paradigm shift.

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Other books by Eric Hazan Translated by David Fernbach