Wilson, Colette E. (2007) Paris and the Commune 1871-78: the politics of forgetting. Cultural HIstory of Modern War . Manchester University Press and Palgrave in the USA, Manchester and New York, 236 pp. ISBN 978 0 7190 7476 9. (Full text available)
This book makes a strong contribution to our understanding of French cultural memory. Despite the scholarship and political activism devoted to keeping the memory of the Paris Commune alive, there still remains much ignorance both in France and elsewhere, about the traumatic civil war of 1871 and particularly about the terrible retribution meted out by the French State on its own citizens; some 20,000 to 35,000 people were killed on the streets of Paris in just the final week of the conflict.Colette Wilson identifies a critical blind-spot in French studies which since the 1960s has focused primarily on representations of the Commune by writers and artists who were either Communards themselves or at least sympathetic to the Communard cause. New critical approaches are instead set to work on neglected texts (by Maxime Du Camp), marginalized aspects of the illustrated press (Le Monde illustré), early photography (Charles Marville, Edouard Baldus, and Charles Soulier) and a selection of novels by Emile Zola. Wilson writes clearly and authoritatively and her book will be of interest to second/third and final year undergraduates, postgraduate students and academics working on France in the nineteenth century from a number of different perspectives – war and revolution studies, cultural studies, history and cultural memory, literature, art history, photography, the illustrated press, city studies and human geography. The book will appeal equally to all lovers of Paris who wish to know and understand more about this city’s turbulent past.