A cultural history of one of Paris’s most fascinating and variegated areas, whose history can be summarized as ‘from riches to rags and back again.’ The Marais was the beating heart of fashionable Paris from the Middle Ages through to the time of Louis XIV, when the court’s move to Versailles marked the start of a decline in its fortunes. Thereafter it became a working-class, largely Jewish area, sometimes described as a ‘ghetto’, and by the early twentieth century was in a parlous condition from which it was extricated by the Paris City Council and the 1960s restoration plan of André Malraux (which did not go without criticism and opposition). Its most recent avatar has been as the best-known gay quartier of the capital, though again this identity has not been a straightforward or always easily-accepted one. The stress throughout will be on representations – literary, cinematic, autobiographical, photographic and in graphic-novel form – as much as if not more than the unfolding of historical events.
'This book offers a rich and stimulating cultural topography of the Marais quarter of Paris, from the Middle Ages to the present day. The author nimbly synthesizes a wide range of historical research on the quarter. This in turn furnishes the context for the more original dimension of the project: the close reading of the ways in which the Marais figures in a range of cultural representations.'
Douglas Smith, University College Dublin