Novel set in the Dordogne
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical
Era(s): 1870's Paris Commune
1870.17-year-old apprentice bookbinder Étienne Bonin travels from revolutionary Lyon to even more revolutionary Paris seeking excitement and professional opportunity. By the spring of 1871 he is deeply committed to the insurrection for workers’ power, to a new lover — Rose Durand, 16-year-old coworker and budding feminist from Belleville—and to his new comrades. Together they experience festive celebrations, institutional innovations, military disasters and the final “week of blood.”
Étienne and Rose’s coming of age in the midst of a revolution is also the story of the growth of a powerful working-class movement. The tradesmen and women involved in creating and defending the Paris Commune of 1871were not just bookbinders, but also bronze workers, tin smiths, shoemakers, typographers, printers, laundresses, clothing and textile workers, carpenters and many others.
“Rabble” is the closest English equivalent to “canaille”, the way the privileged classes described the rough and ready workers who had seized the city and were remaking it as a bastion of liberty, equality and fraternity. Those tradesmen and women managed to create the first self-governing, proto-communist society in the modern world, in what was the most advanced capitalist city of its age. They then had to defend it against massive bombardment and attacks, which would finally annihilate the Commune but not its ideals. These would be reborn in revolutions from 1917, and to our present day.
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