Geoffrey Fox

Reflections & Inquiries

A sardonic view of a bitter struggle


La vie parisienne pendant le Siège et sous la Commune by Henri D’Almeras
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hostile to the Paris Commune of 1871, which he considers “une tyrannie aussi stupide qu’odieuse”, Alméras is nevertheless respectful and even admiring of those few communards who not only remained sober (the alcoholism of some of the leading figures is a major theme) but appear to him honest and courageous: Eugène Varlin, Louise Michel, and Jules Vallès among them. He especially admires Vallès as a writer. However he treats their utopian visions with amusement at their naïveté and vanity and especially the utopian notion that a society based on solidarity, equality and collaboration could be sustained. Not my view: I think  that utopian vision, whether realizable or not, is essential to keep us going in these dystopian times. Nevertheless, I have profited from his very rich anecdotal information culled from careful and thorough reading. Thus it is valuable supplementary reading, though it doesn’t even attempt to explain how and why that great revolutionary outburst occurred and how it could be sustained for over two months. Nor does it treat at all seriously (though it mentions) the enormous cruelty of the Versailles government and troops that ultimately annihilated that great social experiment. The book was published in 1927 (but I was the first person to read my copy: the pages were still uncut), when some veterans of the Commune were still alive. Several of Alméras’s many other books, including the series on daily life in Paris in different epochs, are available on-line through Gallica (, a service of the French national library, but not this one, yet. It should be.

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A barricade on Rue Voltaire, after its capture by the regular army during the Bloody Week