THE TERRIBLE YEAR: The Paris Commune 1871 by Alistair Horne

THE TERRIBLE YEAR: The Paris Commune 1871

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

For the centennial of the Paris Commune of 1871 resplendently illustrated with contemporary cartoons, lithographs, paintings and photos, this is a visually stunning and literarily enthralling record of the days when Paris burned and bled waving a defiant red banner at the provinces and the newly elected republican government in Versailles. Unreconciled to the ignominious defeat of the Franco-Prussian War, the Parisian sans-culottes fought with do-or-die desperation -- exactly for what is still not clear -- in a revolt which was the ""last echo of 1793 and the first note of 1917""; the Commune was as remarkable for its ideological murkiness as for its frenetic gaiety and its fanaticism. Contemporary denizens of 'la ville lumiere' included Victor Hugo, Flaubert, Goncourt, Verlaine, Daumier, Manet and Renoir; their words and pictures as well as those of British and American visitors trapped in the city have been used to maximum effect by the author to attain a vibrant 'you are there' immediacy. Home, who is a historian at Oxford, also ponders the significance of the Commune as an inspirational model for the '68 Paris barricades and the continuing fascination which the Communards, ""madmen"" who ""had in them that little flame which never dies,"" hold for youthful insurgents and would-be revolutionaries the world over.

Pub Date: July 14th, 1971
Publisher: Viking