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When Paris Sizzled

The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel, Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends

Mary McAuliffe PhD

When Paris Sizzled vividly portrays the City of Light during the fabulous 1920s, les Années folles, when Parisians emerged from the horrors of war to find that a new world greeted them—one that reverberated with the hard metallic clang of the assembly line, the roar of automobiles, and the beat of jazz. Mary McAuliffe traces a decade that saw seismic change on almost every front, from art and architecture to music, literature, fashion, entertainment, transportation, and, most notably, behavior.
The epicenter of all this creativity, as well as of the era’s good times, was Montparnasse, where impoverished artists and writers found colleagues and cafés, and tourists discovered the Paris of their dreams. Major figures on the Paris scene—such as Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Picasso, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and Proust—continued to hold sway, while others now came to prominence—including Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Cole Porter, and Josephine Baker, as well as André Citroën, Le Corbusier, Man Ray, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, and the irrepressible Kiki of Montparnasse.
Paris of the 1920s unquestionably sizzled. Yet rather than being a decade of unmitigated bliss,
les Années folles also saw an undercurrent of despair as well as the rise of ruthless organizations of the extreme right, aimed at annihilating whatever threatened tradition and order—a struggle that would escalate in the years ahead. Through rich illustrations and evocative narrative, Mary McAuliffe brings this vibrant era to life.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 344Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-5332-2 • Hardback • September 2016 • $29.95 • (£19.95)
978-1-4422-5333-9 • eBook • September 2016 • $28.99 • (£19.95)
Mary McAuliffe holds a PhD in history from the University of Maryland, has taught at several universities, and has lectured at the Smithsonian Institution. She has traveled extensively in France, and for many years she was a regular contributor to Paris Notes. Her books include Dawn of the Belle Epoque, Twilight of the Belle Epoque, Clash of Crowns, and Paris Discovered. She lives in New York City with her husband.
List of Illustrations
Map of Paris, 1918–1929
Chapter 1 Out of Darkness (1918)
Chapter 2 Going Forward (1918–1919)
Chapter 3 Versailles and Victory (1919)
Chapter 4 Making Way for the New (1919–1920)
Chapter 5 Les Années Folles (1920)
Chapter 6 Weddings, Break-ups, and Other Affairs (1921)
Chapter 7 The Lost Generation (1922)
Chapter 8 A Death in Paris (1923)
Chapter 9 Americans in Paris (1924)
Chapter 10 You’ve Come A Long Way From St. Louis (1925)
Chapter 11 All That Jazz (1926)
Chapter 12 Sophisticated Lady (1927)
Chapter 13 Cocktails, Darling? (1928)
Chapter 14 The Bubble Bursts (1929)
About the Author
A vivid chronicle of 10 roiling years in Paris.Historian McAuliffe . . . takes up where her last book left off, in 1918, to focus on the city's cultural life after World War I. What Americans called the Roaring '20s, the French termed les Années folles, "the Crazy Years," which the author deems an apt epithet for the "what the hell" attitude that pervaded the city's upper class. But there was more to life in Paris than "endless parties and late-night jazz clubs." Organizing the book chronologically, McAuliffe portrays a city bursting with creativity in art, music, dance, fashion, architecture, and literature. Drawing on memoirs, biographies, and the many histories of the period, she follows an abundant and diverse cast of characters, creating brief vignettes about the yearly evolution of their lives and careers. Besides the usual suspects found in any history of the Lost Generation—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, Picasso, Pound, Man Ray, Kiki of Montparnasse, and Cocteau, to name a few—the author includes politicians (de Gaulle, Clemenceau, Pétain) and innovators in fields other than the arts, such as cosmetics manufacturers Helena Rubinstein and François Coty; architect Charles Jeanneret, who became famous as Le Corbusier; Marie Curie; couturiers Paul Poiret and, of course, Coco Chanel; and automotive giants Renault, Peugeot, and Citroën. André Citroën, writes McAuliffe, was determined to be the French Henry Ford; he "was not interested in creating a plaything for the rich. He wanted to make useful car for the middle class," the equivalent of Ford's Model T. Within a year of production, thousands of Citroëns were on the road. By 1925, Citroën was the fourth-largest auto company in the world, "behind only the Americans—Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler." Fast-paced and richly detailed, the narrative nevertheless reprises many well-known stories. McAuliffe creates an expansive landscape in her examination of a transformative decade.

McAuliffe follows Dawn of the Belle Epoque with another breezy, brisk, well-researched work about Paris, this time focusing on the dazzling figures populating the once-denigrated Paris neighborhood of Montparnasse at its mesmerizing peak. 'The Lost Generation' of expat writers and artists helped transform Montparnasse into a culturally rich, tumultuous community where the luminous and daring Josephine Baker danced, Gertrude Stein kvetched about James Joyce, and the taxi horns provided inspiration for George Gershwin. Not surprisingly, the area’s notoriety only grew with the proliferation of the expats and artists’ casual and often rash affairs, drug use (especially Jean Cocteau’s opium addiction), and other self-indulgent behaviors aided by reckless spending. Weaving in key advancements in cultural production (music, architecture, theater, film) and technological evolution in the automobile industry, McAuliffe smartly keeps her eye on political events in Paris as well as in central Europe, especially the increasing popularity of far-right movements and Charles de Gaulle’s rise in the French military. McAuliffe recreates a lush, gorgeous world filled with talented, yet immensely flawed innovators who experienced les années folles ('the crazy years') as a rare escape into creativity, glamor, and respite from the sobering reality of a world prone to devastating wars.
Publishers Weekly

McAuliffe has an eye for the evocative, using quotes—and salacious details—to bring these early 20th-century men and women to life.
Library Journal

What do James Joyce, Marie Curie, Sylvia Beach, Igor Stravinsky, and Man Ray have in common? Along with those named in the title, they are among the cast of characters McAuliffe (Twilight of the Belle Époque, 2014) portrays in her tour of Les années folles, the Golden Twenties in the City of Light. She transports us to Montparnasse, populated by artists, writers, musicians, tourists, and an assortment of larger-than-life personalities whose “spirit . . . flowed on a river of coffee, alcohol, and chat.” Beginning with the end of WWI, McAuliffe carefully chronicles each year of that dynamic decade that saw change on so many fronts, including fashion, art, music, literature, and social behavior. She weaves together an array of stories of well-known as well as some lesser-known individuals to create a vibrant tapestry shot through with color, chaos, and creativity. Graced with period photographs and bolstered with an impressive selection of sources, When Paris Sizzled will captivate anyone who has wondered just what the Lost Generation was up to.

Rich with the flavor of words taken from primary sources, [Mary McAuliffe] provides an intimate look at the very human side of history.
New York Journal of Books

McAuliffe deftly explores the inner lives of the artists and those who surrounded them, and in the process humanizes these larger-than-life characters. For McAuliffe, these demigods of the art world were ordinary people who fell in love, mourned the loss of loved ones and worried increasingly about their financial security and their legacy. . . . McAuliffe has added a truly remarkable degree of insight into both the lives of the participants and the turbulent world they inhabited. McAuliffe paints with broad, majestic strokes a world that has been lost to us or perhaps never was.
Washington Independent Review of Books

Fascinating trivia about artists in turn-of-the-century Paris adds layers of insight to a time of growth and experimentation. . . . McAuliffe is uniquely positioned to bring this crowded cast of characters to life. She does a thorough job of cataloging the wide range of artistic and scientific achievements while managing to also offer surprising tidbits that add texture to the narrative. . . . McAuliffe’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for this time is evident on every page.
Foreword Reviews

When Paris Sizzled delivers an expansive and wonderfully engaging account of the spirited characters who made the Left Bank of Paris the center of the creative world.
The Huffington Post

McAuliffe, the author of several books about Paris, draws on the troves of material left behind by the era’s great writers and expats to bring the city to life in a kind of you-are-here-with-Cocteau-and-Chanel tableau vivant.
New York Times

What's most impressive is the way [McAuliffe] shows both how and why the 1920s in Paris served as a magnificent interlude between two of the century's most iconic disasters. . . . [She] avoids romantic myths of the Jazz Age, focusing on how artists struggled against a backdrop of anti-Semitism, poverty and the rise of fascism.
Shelf Awareness

Portrays 1920s Paris (les Années folles) through the lives of Hemingway, Chanel, Jean Cocteau, Cole Porter, and Josephine Baker, as well as André Citroën, Le Corbusier, Man Ray, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, and Kiki of Montparnasse. Major figures from Twilight of the Belle Epoque, especially Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and Proust, remain central to McAuliffe’s portrayal.

Illustrates the important contributions by innovators and entrepreneurs such as André Citroën, Louis Renault, Coco Chanel, Paul Poiret, and the Michelin brothers.

Highlights the degree of innovation and change that affected almost every aspect of Parisians’ lives, whether in art and architecture, music, literature, fashion, entertainment, transportation, or, most notably, behavior.

Reveals that les Années folles, often remembered simply as a time of carefree frivolity, fostered important developments in artistic expression, whether in photography and cinema or in traditional art forms.

Traces the rise of extreme-right militants, supported by wealthy businessmen such as François Coty, opposed to the new in all its forms.