What drives youth to believe that they can and must change the world, no matter how great the sacrifice? And how does their struggle change them? And, no less important, how do the conditions of labor — the hours spent, the wages and the relationship with the owner and manager, the comradeship, the motions and skills required — shape the political and social thought of the laborers?
This novel, The Bookbinder, now completed (publication date to be announced), poses these questions in the context of the Paris Commune of 1871, the first self-governing, proto-communist society in the modern world, and in the European continent’s largest and most advanced capitalist center .
In 1870, 17-year old apprentice bookbinder Étienne Bonin travels from revolutionary Lyon to even more revolutionary Paris seeking excitement and professional opportunity, and by the spring of 1871 is deeply committed to the insurrection for workers’ power, a new lover and his new comrades, while experiencing festive celebrations, institutional innovations, military disasters and the final “week of blood” that would annihilate the Commune but not its ideals, which would be reborn in revolutions from 1917 to our day.
Étienne Bonin’s story is also the story of the growth of a powerful working-class movement and its creation of the new society, in the face of severe internal conflicts and the merciless military power of the old regime that ultimately destroyed it.
Opening: the 18th of March
Pissing, elbow to elbow with half a dozen other men, Maurice wondered if he was the only man in the company who had ever even been in Paris before. On the platform where they had disembarked, he’d seen a man who said he was from Paris escorted outside by a guard, whereas others were told to report to “Army of Paris”. Then when they got to him, he gave his old address in Lyon — so that they would let him stay in Paris and, if the army gave him some free time, to reunite with Sophie.
“Hurry up, you sluggards. Rifles and canteens and extra cartridges. Get all your gear together and line up in formation. On the double!”
Rifles and extra cartridges? The war is over, we’re in Paris, there are no Prussians here, so who are we supposed to shoot? He shivered at the only possible answer.
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