The Secret History
Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781596913233, 512pp.
Publication Date: November 28, 2006
If Adam Gopnik's "Paris to the Moon" described daily life in contemporary Paris, this book describes daily life in Paris throughout its history: a history of the city from the point of view of the Parisians themselves. Paris captures everyone's imaginations: It's a backdrop for Proust's fictional pederast, Robert Doisneau's photographic kiss, and Edith Piaf's serenaded soldier-lovers; a home as much to romance and love poems as to prostitution and opium dens. The many pieces of the city coexist, each one as real as the next. What's more, the conflicted identity of the city is visible everywhere between cobblestones, in bars, on the "metro."
In this lively and lucid volume, Andrew Hussey brings to life the urchins and artists who've left their marks on the city, filling in the gaps of a history that affected the disenfranchised as much as the nobility. "Paris: The Secret History" ranges across centuries, movements, and cultural and political beliefs, from Napoleon's overcrowded cemeteries to Balzac's nocturnal flight from his debts. For Hussey, Paris is a city whose long and conflicted history continues to thrive and change. The book's is a picaresque journey through royal palaces, brothels, and sidewalk cafes, uncovering the rich, exotic, and often lurid history of the world's most beloved city.
"In his outrageously readable, impressively researched, shockingly violent alternative history of Paris, Andrew Hussey illuminates the city's gutters, stews, slaughters, riots, underbellies and crimes in the shadowy corners that Balzac relished. The result is, literally and figuratively, a fascinating riot of a book."--Simon Sebag Montefiore
"Magnificent and entertaining...At every turn, on every corner, the idle traveller through the book finds something new."--London Observer