Kristin Ross on The Paris Commune

In 2002, I was slogging through a fellowship at NYU and feeling depressed. It was the aftermath of 9/11, and all the world was Paul Wolfowitz and Paul Berman. At our fellowship seminar, we were asked to read a book called May ’68 and Its Afterlives. I think we read it in proofs. I had never heard of it or its author, Kristin Ross. I fell in love with both after the second or third page. Kristin is one of those writers who seizes on an image and never lets you forget it. Now she’s got a book coming out on the Paris Commune; it’s called Communal Luxury.

Here’s just a taste:

In the decade following the massacre [of the Communards]…traces of the Commune could be detected everywhere, it seems, except within the city of Paris proper. Thus William Morris…could perceive the traces of Parisian barricades hidden in the lava fields of Iceland. The filter through which he views the Icelandic terrain, the unconscious superimposition of ancient, petrified lava and recent urban conflagration, gives us—along with the apricot orchard in what had once been Trafalgar Square—another presiding image through which to try to refract the practices and thought of a number of militants in the wake of the Commune, for whom the experience of what had transpired in those few weeks in Paris, whether lived directly or not, had become a turning point.

Of all our contemporary writers on politics and culture, I can’t think of anyone who has such an eye for transposition and juxtaposition, particularly of the pastoral and the political, of natural rhythm and epic interruption: the barricades of Paris in the lava fields of Iceland, the apricot orchard in Trafalgar Square.

I cannot wait to read this book.

One Comment

  1. BillR February 13, 2015 at 8:39 pm | #

    Kristin Ross is a gem. Her corruscating take on the rise of New Philosophers (neither new nor Philosophers) was a breath of fresh air during the High Noon of “Humanitarian Interventionism”, “Right to Protect” and other monuments to Hypocrisy during first half of the last decade:

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