Montparnasse Cemetery

Arrondissement 14

3 Boulevard Edgar Quinet

Originally called ‘the Southern Cemetery’ it was opened in 1824 as one of four that made up a new network of burial places outside the original walled city centre: Passy (west), Montmartre (north) and Père-Lachaise (east).

It was developed on the private burial plot of the ‘Brothers of Charity’ religious order (now called St-Jean-de-Dieu Hospital Order) and on three local farms. Soon it stimulated a local monument statutory industry, among whom was Antoine Bourdelle, Jules Dalou‘s studio neighbour. Dalou was himself buried here, having famously sculpted the Père-Lachaise tombs of Victor Noir and Auguste Blanqui.

Around 35,000 people are now buried there, and with them memories of those who struggled for a better world.

Among these is a broken column, commemorating the four sergeants of La Rochelle, Jean-François Bories, Charles Goubin, Jean Pommier and Charles Raoulx guillotined on September 21 1822 in the Place de Grève outside the Hotel de Ville for being members of the Carbonari and plotting to overthrow Louis XVIII.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the pivotal figure of French socialism in the mid-19th century, is buried here.

Denis Dussoubs has a commemorative tomb in the cemetery. He was shot while trying to persuade troops to remain faithful to the Second Republic and to stop Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’État  that had taken place two days earlier on December 2 1851. His brother, Gaston, a deputy was unwell, and asked him to go to speak to the troops in his place.

Pierre Leroux, the first to use the word ‘Socialism’ was buried there shortly after the declaration of the Paris Commune in April 1871.

Alfred Dreyfus, against whom such an anti-Semetic injustice was done in the 1894 that France became politically divided in ways that shaped its 20th century history.

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre are buried next to each other.

The cemetery also includes two monuments: one to those killed in the Franco-German war (1870-1871) sieges of Paris and Strasbourg; the other to the Communards killed there during the bloody week of May 21-28 1871 and afterwards.

During the retreat from the cemetery Jean Allemane prevented Joseph Piazza from being shot by his own men, by locking him up in the 5th arrondissement’s town hall next to the Pantheon. Sadly, the Communards forgot to release him and he was killed by the Versaillais. The executions and quick burials in the cemetery finally ended only on June 19 1871.



Rue Cels

Arrondissement 14

Number 24

The street was named after the owner of the land just outside the walls of Paris to the South of the Montparnasse cemetery, Jacques Philippe Martin Cels, who was also a renowned horticulturalist. It was opened in 1850.

Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre rented two rooms at the Hotel Mistral at No. 24, and lived there from 1937 to 1939

One of Paris’ rare plaques remembering left-wingers has been put outside No. 24. This is the Hotel Mistral, where Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre rented two separate rooms from the autumn of 1937 until September 1939. They had agreed to keep their individual freedom.

The quotes on the plaque are: ‘I would be mistaken if I said we are as one. Between two individuals harmony is never certain, it must continuously be conquered’. Jean-Paul: ‘But there is one thing that doesn’t ever change, nor can it change. It is that whatever happens and whatever I become I will become it with you’.

After being released from his prisoner-of-war status in 1940, Sartre returned to the Hotel Mistral, where de Beauvoir also moved back to. In 1941 the first meeting of the intellectual resistance group, ‘Socialism and Freedom’ (Socialisme et Liberté), was held in Simone de Beauvoir’s room.


Rue Dauphine

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 1-2, 7, 18, 33, 39, 42

Rue Dauphine from Quai de Conti

Built in 1607 to link the first stone bridge (the Pont Neuf) across the Seine funded from the king’s purse with the Philippe Auguste wall, it was named after the Dauphin (eldest son) of Henri IV. This peculiar name (meaning dolphin in French) dated from 1349 when King Philippe bought land from the Count of Vienna on condition that all heirs to the French throne be named after the dolphin emblem on the count’s coat of arms.

The royal connection didn’t survive revolutionary France. From 1792 to 1814 it was renamed Rue de Thionville to honour the victorious two-month resistance of the town of that name to the 1792 seige by 36,00 Austrian and French Royalist troops. At the next challenge to the Bourbons a barricade thrown up between Nos. 1 and 2, opposite the Pont Neuf bridge, saw heavy fighting with Charles X’s soldiers defending the Louvre Palace on July 27 1830.

On May 25 1871 a barricade in the same place was taken without great difficulty by the Versallais troops.

Outside No. 7 there is a plaque on the wall. This is where in 1937 Picasso painted Guernica in his roof-top studio for the Spanish Republic’s hall in that year’s Paris International Exhibition. In vain Picasso left a will stating that the work would only be returned to Spain when it was again a Republic.

Picasso painted his most famous painting in his studio at the corner of Rue Dapuhine and the Quai des grands Augustins in just a month before the 1937 International exhibition where it was first shown.

A big arms cache of the FTP resistance group on the mezzanine floor of Staircase D of No. 18 was found by the anti-resistance Special Brigade of the Paris Police in June 1943.

Marat, Danton and Desmoulins used to attend the Cordeliers Club meetings at No 18 from 1792-1795. The club was dominated by the Herbertists

Martin Bernard, a typographer and member of Barbès and Blanqui‘s republican ‘Family Association’ (Société des Familles) conspiracy that subsequently became the Société des saisons and staged the May 12 1839 insurrection set up an ammunition workshop at No. 24. He was arrested there on June 2 1836.

In 1864 members of the newly-founded International Working Men’s Association, Eugène Varlin and Nathalie Le Mel, set up the La Marmite association at Varlin’s flat at No. 33. Within a few years it had grown to some 8,000 members.

In 1942 Simone de Beauvoir was staying at the Hôtel d’Aubusson, also at No. 33, when she was forced out of teaching. The left/existentialist intellectual bar, Le Tabou, that had been the Bar vert in the Rue Jacob was reopened in the basement by Juliette Greco for rehearsals in 1946 before opening to the public the following year.

No. 42 was the address of the editorial office of La Vie ouvriére, 1909-1911. The journal was founded with funds collected from supporters and edited by Pierre Monatte, aiming to be ‘the home of syndicalist intellectual cooperation’. Its contributors included the major figures of French trade unionism such as Victor Griffuelhes, Léon Jouhaux, Alfred Rosmer and Alphonse Merrheim.

After his marriage, Jacques Prévert lived at No. 39 on the fifth floor beneath the roof with his wife Simone Dienne in 1931-1932.

A fortnightly, La Vie ouvriére‘s subscribers numbered 550 in the first issue of December 1909  and rose to 1,350 in January 1911, the year its office moved to the Librarie du Travail on the Quai Jemappes, closer to the CGT’s main offices.

Rue Dauphine was Paris’ widest street in the 17th century, No 42 housed the editorial offices of the influential CGT revolutionary syndicalist fortnightly paper, La Vie Ouvriere.

Rue Dauphine (9 metres wide) was the widest street in early 17th century Paris. It also, arguably, holds one of the keys to Paris’ tradition of uniformity of architectural design.

Hazan (IOP) reports Henry IV writing to Sully in 1607:  ‘My friend, following what I have told you that work is beginning on the buildings that are in the new road going from the end of the Pont-Neuf to the Porte de Bussy, I wanted to send you this word to tell you that I would be very happy if you would explain to those who start building in this road that they should make the front of their houses entirely in the same order, for it would be a fine ornament to see from the end of the bridge this road with one and the same façade.’

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Rue Delambre

Arrondissement 14

10, 11bis, 33, 35

Named after Jean-Baptiste Delambre, the French astronomist and mathematician who was director of the Paris Observatory, it was first built up on land sold off by Paris hospitals in 1839 and then given its current name in 1844.

In the 1920s, today’s Auberge de Venise at No. 10 used to be called the Dingo Bar. It was a favourite drinking haunt of many of the ‘Lost Generation’ of American writers, including Ernest Hemingway, who met Scott Fitzgerald there in 1925, and John Dos Passos.

On the other side of the street, the Rosebud at No 11bis was a bar Sartre was often at in 1937.

Simone de Beauvoir lived at the Hotel des Bains in the spring of 1937

The reason for Sartre’s presence was that Simone de Beauvoir lived for a few months at the hôtel des Bains at No. 33 in 1937.

Next door, in what was the hôtel des Écoles and is now the Delambre Hotel at No. 35, André Breton lived for a year from October 1920 after giving up his medical studies. There is even a rare leftist plaque on the wall remembering him.

A photograph of Rue Dalembre in 1920 showing the Hotel des Ecoles on the right. Little had changed in the street by 1937 when De Beauvoir moved in to the hotel next door.

Francis Bacon also stayed at this hotel in 1927, coincidentally the same place where Paul Gauguin (the grandson of Flora Tristan) lived in 1891.

The contemporary look of the adjacent Hotel des Bains and the Hotel des Ecoles (now Hotel Delambre) with memories of Simone de Beavuoir, Andre Breton, Paul Gauguin and Francis Bacon.


Avenue Denfert-Rochereau

Arrondissement 14

Numbers: 65-73, 81, 83, 91

The Rue de l’Enfer (Hell Road) was only given its current name, Avenue Denfert-Rochereau, after the 1878 death of Colonel Pierre Philippe Denfert-Rochereau. This military hero was known as the ‘Lion of Belfort’ for his holding out against the German army in 1870-1871.

The Monastery at Nos. 65-73 originally hosted the end of the Rungis aqueduct that provided the water supply for the Luxembourg Palace – and then for the rest of the area. It was shelled and burnt down on May 23 1871 during the battle of the Communards against the Versaillais troops.

Ledru-Rollin lived at No 81 Rue de l’Enfer in 1848 while he was organising the first elections in France by universal suffrage

While Ledru-Rollin was in exile, another former political prisoner, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, moved in with his family to No. 83 during the 1850s.

Simone de Beauvoir moved from home in 1929 to a small flat at No. 91 owned by her grandmother, initially to escape her all-present mother. She stayed there until 1931 when she moved to teach in Marseille.

In June 1940, after having spent four weeks outside Paris, De Beauvoir returned to stay for a few more months in the flat at No. 91 until the winter got too cold for her. She occupied herself during the day reading Hegel at France’s National Library in the Rue de Richelieu.


Rue de l’Éperon

Arrondissement 6

Number 2

A very old street that first appears on the records in 1267. It finally got its present name (‘spur’ in English) from a shop sign in 1637.

Its principal claim to fame is at No. 2, the Lycée Fénelon. This was the first secondary and higher school for girls in Paris. It was set up in 1892 in 19th century buildings used to prepare young men to enter the competition for the elite École normale supérieure.

It was named after the Archbishop of Cambrai (François de Salignac de La Mothe-Fénelon known succinctly as Fénelon, 1695-1715) who had written extensively on women’s education.

The Lycée became entirely mixed in 1979.

Among its better known students was Simone Weil and while some sources suggest Simone de Beauvoir was a student there, others (more probably in my view) suggest this was one of the Lycées where she taught. Another teacher there, notable for the wrong reasons was Marcel Déat (1894-1955), the fascist whose political career ended up as Minister of Labour and National Solidarity under the Vichy government in 1944.


Rue de la Gaîté

Arrondissement 14

Number 11bis, 20, 20bis, 21, 26, 31

Crammed full of smallish theatres since 1818, when the Montparnasse Theatre first opened its doors, the road ran along the outside of the Farmers’ General tax wall. This made it a good location to drink wine that was not subject to the Paris tax, and the numbers of music halls, theatres and restaurants that sprang up gave it its name. It was absorbed into Paris in 1863.

Sometimes political meetings were held in the cafés in the street. Gustave Courbet and many of Paris’ bohemian intellectuals and artists used to drink at the Café des Mille Colonnes, next to Bobino at No. 20bis, in the 1860s. On December 17 1904 all the Russian revolutionary groups in Paris met there together.

Bobino was the most famous music hall in the street. Lenin went often between 1909 and 1912. Edith Piaf sang there at the end of the 1930s and Georges Brassens had a five month residence there in 1976.

During 1870-1871 the dance hall, Bal du Jardin de Paris, at No. 21 was used to hold 30 public political meetings.

While Lenin was living in Paris in 1909-1912 he is recorded as seeing a friend, the singer-songwriter Montéhus appear at No. 26, the Théâtre de la Gaîté Montparnasse.

The Montparnasse Theatre you now see at No 31 was rebuilt in 1886 and is on the list of historic monuments. It staged the Paris premier of Berthold Brecht’s ‘Threepenny Opera’ (l’Opéra de Quat’sous) in 1928.

The writer Simone de Beauvoir spent the academic year of 1936-1937 based at the hotel then named Royal-Bretagne living there with Sartre when he was in Paris at No. 11bis. Today, this art-deco hotel has another name and looks more upmarket than it did in the 1930s.

The hotel where Simon de Beauvoir spent a year while teaching at the right-bank secondary school, the lycée Molière

Nearly opposite De Beauvoir’s hotel was the famous Bobino music hall at No. 20, sadly demolished in 1985 and turned into a Mercure hotel with a new Bobino now at the back. De Beauvoir and Sartre saw two singers there in 1932, singing anarchist and anti-militarist songs.

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Rue Jacob

Arrondissement 6

56, 44, 40, 14, 10, 2

The outside of the Cours Desir during the great flood of 30 January 1910

This old narrow street running parallel to the Seine has both an international and a significant left history. It also used to flood when the Seine got very high, as it did in 1910.

In 1783 the British embassy was located at No. 44, and this was where Benjamin Franklin negotiated the American Independence Treaty from Britain. He refused, however, to sign it on British territory, so on September 3 1783 he and John Adams signed the treaty at the York Hotel where Franklin was staying at No. 56.

No. 44 became the Hôtel d’Angleterre and then the Hôtel Jacob, and this was where Hemingway and his wife Hadley stayed at first on their arrival in Paris on 22 December 1921.

Anne Pingeot used to live at No 40, where she was visited very regularly by the French deputy and future president, François Mitterrand.

Louise Michel spent her last years from 1897 to 1904 at No. 2. The Cronstadt hotel was then demolished in 1944 leaving a little garden.

Louise Michel lived in the building that once occupied this small garden site from 1897 until leaving for her last speaking tour in 1905.

In 1832 the independent Saint-Simonien, Pauline Roland lived in a flat at No. 10 with Pierre Leroux, who was then a foreman at the Panckoucke printers where the paper he helped found, Le Globe, was being printed.

After returning from exile in Belgium in 1862, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon returned to Paris and lived in an apartment at the back of the courtyard of No. 14 rue Jacob. An earlier resident, Richard Wagner, who stayed there from 1841-1842, has a plaque to his memory on the wall.

A view of an old entrance into No. 10 rue Jacob taken from the courtyard inside No. 12

At the end of the Second World War some leftist writers who had organised together before the war in the October Group led by Jacques Prévert, set up ‘Le Bar Vert’ (Green Bar) at No. 10. The first ‘American bar’ in Paris it stayed open all night, and it attracted many literary names including Raymond Queneau, Roger Vailland, Maurce Merleau-Ponty Juliette Greco and occasionally Jean-Paul Sartre.

The inside court of the Cour Desir during the great flood of 30 January 1910

Simone de Beauvoir went to the private Catholic secondary school at the Institut Désir at Nos. 37, 39, 41 and 45. The school’s buildings were partly taken over to build a new Medical Faculty in the the early 1950s and it moved away.

No. 60 used to host the Restaurant Michaud (later known as the Comptoir des Saints Pères), frequented by the ‘Lost generation’ of the 1920s such as Hemingway, Joyce and Scott Fitzgerald.


Rue Ranelagh

Arrondissement 16

Number 44, 71, 97

This very long street now linking the very wealthy Avenue du President-Kennedy with the Boulevard de Beauséjour was originally part of the Commune of Passy. Named after the nearby Ranelagh Garden it was opened when the lawyer for the estate agent who demolished the Boulainvilliers Château sold off the land in 1825. It was then successively extended between 1854 and 1877.

Building speculation was rife throughout 19th century Paris. The highest prices for land were reached as the Westward expansion of the city exploded in the 1820s. The Roëhn firm and its lawyer did very well.

From the age of two in 1844, Stéphane Mallarmé lived at No. 44 before being sent to a Christian boarding school between the ages of 10 and 13.

On May 22 1871 captured Communards were lined up against a wall in rue Ranelagh and summarily shot.

In the school year following the Popular Front election victory and strike wave of 1936, Simone de Beauvoir spent a year teaching at the Lycée Molière at No. 71.

The lycée Molière in the early 20th century. Designed by the architect Vaudremer and opened in 1888 it had taken two years to build. The Figaro and other right winters denounced the use of Molière’s name, arguing that he would only have wanted women to be taught morality and housekeeping.

This secondary school for 14-18 year-old was opened in 1888, the third for young women in Paris. its openinig followed the Camille Sée law, passed in 1880 and given the name of the Jewish deputy for Saint-Denis who succeeded Louis Blanc.

Based in the wealthy west of Paris, attending the Lycée Molière provided an education for many of the French female intellectual and political elite in the first half of the 20th century. It became a mixed school in 1973.

Under the Occupation in 1941, at her home in No. 97 Jean Madeline, working with the interpreter Robert Schilling, as part of the Guédon resistance group printed a newspaper there, Unter Uns, aiming to deliver counter propaganda to German soldiers.

The street still possesses an illustration of its earlier wealth, an elaborate mosaic street name and number.
The last section of the Petite Ceinture railway was finally closed in 1985, and the rails taken up in 1993. Since then it has become a 1.2 km green walk way.

At the very end of the street is a green space that was opened on the land that was once used by the Petite Ceinture railway line whose 32 kilometers used to circle Paris.

The road got its name from an 18th century Irish peer, Lord Ranelagh, who built a domed dance hall rotunda in his Chelsea garden in 1742 that was copied near the Château de la Muette in 1774 and then called ‘le petit Ranelagh’. The Jardin Ranelagh, was created on the lawn of the royal Château by Haussmann in 1860.


Rue de Rennes

Arrondissement 6

Numbers 61, 71, 128, 140b

Rue de Rennes viewed from the Montparnasse Tower

Opened only in the mid-19th century, the road’s name derives from its leading to the railway station, the Gare de Rennes (now renamed Paris-Montparnasse), whose trains traveled to Brittany.

Haussmann‘s original design was to extend it to the Seine, but because this would have involved knocking down the prestigious French Institute and creating a giant X at the eastern end of the île de la Cité it never happened. The road’s numbering thus only starts at 41 and 48 just south of the boulevard Saint-Germain. Its buildings mainly represent the classical Haussmann-Second Empire style, while No. 140b is attributed to Gaudi and Ausher in the Art nouveau style, and dated 1904.

During the Paris Commune the offices of one of the most successful daily newspapers, le Cri du Peuple , whose contributors included Gustave Courbet, were based at No. 61. It printed up to 100,000 copies and published 82 issues between 22 February and May 23 1871. Initially banned on March 11 it was reissued on March 21 and then continued daily until the ‘bloody week’ at the end of May.

18 issues appeared between 22 February 1871 and 12 March, when it was banned by the Army’s Commander in Chief in Paris, General Vinoy. Another 65 issues appeared from March 21.

Jules Vallès, its editor in 1871, returned from exile in 1880. The journal was given a new lease of life between 1883 and 1889 by Vallès and Séverine (Caroline Rémy), with Jules Guesde. One of its first articles describing students as ‘idot children of a rotten bourgeosie’ led to students demonstrating outside the offices.

In 1919 Simone de Beauvoir‘s family moved into No 71, a small sixth floor flat without a lift and without running water. She lived here until 1929.

There is no plaque in the street for her. But at No 128 there is one for Colonel Robert Fouré (1875-1945). He was retired after the June 22 1940 armistice and at the end of 1940 made contact with the new clandestine Socialist/SFIO resistance. This initially produced a Libération-Nord underground newspaper, and then in November 1941 it moved into organised resistance.

Between the end of 1943 and May 17 1944, Fouré was its military head. Arrested by the Gestapo he was deported to Buchenwald and died at its offshoot, the Mittelbau Dora concentration camp a few days after the arrival of US troops in April 1945.

A plaque commemorating one of the leaders of the clandestine SFIO resistance movement who lived at 128 rue de Rennes

Another plaque at the Art Nouveau No. 140bis rue de Rennes was laid by President
François Mitterrand to remember the seven killed and 55 wounded by a bomb planted in a dustbin outside the Tati shop there. This was the last, and the most dangerous, of the ‘Black September’ 14 bombings. These were claimed by a Lebanese Hezbollah-linked group aiming to secure the release of three of their jailed members and to stop France supporting Sadam Hussein in the Iraq invasion of Iran.


Rue Saint Dominique

Arrondissement 7

Numbers: 14, 27, 49, 62, 102

The 2.5 kilometre road was named Rue Saint-Dominique in 1631 after the Dominican order set itself up on what had been a long path leading to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey complex.

The Hotel de Brienne at No. 14 (see entrance above) had been bought by Louis XVIII in 1817 to house the Ministry of War. In April 1871 Gustave Cluseret installed the Central Committee of the National Guard in the War Ministry. Its last meeting there took place on May 23.

The Ministry of Public Works at No. 62 was the location of efforts by the Paris Commune first, on May 10 1871, to discuss workers’ conditions and second, on May 15, to create an enquiry made up of 11 trade associations and the Women’s Union into abandoned workshops.

At an unknown location in the road a barricade was erected rapidly on May 22 1871 when the news arrived that the Versaillais troops had entered Paris. This was one of the 900 estimated by Robert Tombs (1971) to have been erected by the Commune’s defenders.

After the April 4 1894 bombing in the Rue de Conde, the police searched Félix Fénéon‘s office at the Ministry of War in , finding enough evidence of his complicity to put him on trial with the others in the August show trial of 30 anarchists.

The Ministry of War also was where Alfred Dreyfus was arrested on October 15 1894. The campaign for his innocence was largely responsible for creating the unity of the left in the early 20th century.

Charles Marville’s (1813-1879) photographic studio was at No. 27. We have used several of his pictures to illustrate Leftinparis since he was the photographer contracted by Haussmann to take pictures of the streets that would disappear in the remodelling of Paris.

On January 6 1927 Aragon and a comrade from the same Communist cell , Benjamin Péret, signed up to the La Famille Nouvelle workers’ cooperative at No. 101. This was also where in 1932 Aragon organised meetings of the Association des écrivains et artistes révolutionnaires (the AÉAR ).

In 1929 No. 28, a huge early 18th century mansion belonging to La Rochefoucauld d’Estissac was bought by the Chemical Industry Foundation and turned into the Maison de la Chimie (Chemistry House).

This was the venue for the trial by German court martial of 27 Resistance fighters from the PCF’s Youth Battalions (16) and Special Organisation (9) from April 7 to 14 1942. The 28th fighter arrested, the Catalan communist Conrad Miret i Musté, was tortured to death at the Santé prison on February 27. All except four were shot at the Mont-Valérien fort on April 17. One of these, a 22-year-old Polish-origin Jewish woman, Simone Schloss, was guillotined on July 17 1942 in Cologne. Her name is among the list of those shot on the plaque on the wall at No 28 opposite the Maison de la Chimie.

At the end of the German occupation De Gaulle set up his Provisional Government on 25 August 1944 in the War Ministry. This was where he dissolved the Paris Resistance movement on August 28 1944, calling the 20 major Resistance leaders ‘secondhand officers’.

In November 1972 a meeting called by the lawyer Gisèle Halimi in the offices at No. 102 of ‘Choose – A woman’s cause‘ (Choisir – la cause des femmes) with some of the women who had signed the Manifesto of the 343 declaring they had had an illegal abortion. Among those who had signed were Simone de Beauvoir, Catherine Deneuve, Marguerite Duras, Jeanne Moreau, and Françoise Sagan.

The meeting helped organise the legal defence of the five women who were tried at Bobigny on November 8 for having supported a 16-year-old who had had an abortion after being raped. De Beauvoir, president of Choisir, gave evidence attacking the 1920 law that outlawed abortion and made any mention of it in the press illegal. The action and publicity surrounding this trial was a key turning point in the campaign to legalise abortion in France.


Rue Saint-Victor

Arrondissement 5

Numbers: 16, 24, 35

The now much shortened road was originally named after the nearby 11th century Saint Victor Abbey on the banks of the Seine whose walls it skirted. That was closed in 1790 during the French Revolution and then demolished and replaced by a huge wine market in 1811. the abbey site is now occupied by the Paris Global Natural Phenomena Institute (Institut de physique du globe de Paris) and by the Jussieu University campus.

Under Haussmann and the construction of the Boulevard Saint-Germain, the Rue Monge and the Rue des Ecoles the original road lost 75% of its length, and as a result of successive rebuilding, the pavement in places now has two levels

Paul Verlaine was put up by his mistress, Eugénie Krantz, at her flat at No. 16 in 1895.

The conference centre, the Maison de la Mutualité, was built at No. 24 in art-deco style in 1931. From then to the present it has witnessed many significant left meetings.

The Internatlonal Youth Congress against war and fascism took place at the Maison de la Mutualite on May 26 1933. Organised by Paul Langevin and others it aimed to build a common front against fascism.

On July 24 1934 Jacques Prévert held the festival of French anti-militarist songs at La Mutualite. On October 23 1934 under the chair of André Gide there was report-back meeting from the Moscow International Writers congress, with speakers including André Malraux and Fernand Léger. Malraux, Gide, Louis Aragon, Max Ernst, Bertolt Brecht, Aldous Huxley, André Breton and Ilya Ehrenbourg were among the 230 participants from 38 countries who attended the International Writers Congress in the Defence of Culture there on June 21 1935.

After the Second World War around 1,500 Algerians were arrested on April 1 1951 when they went to a banned meeting about Algerian independence at No. 24, the ‘Mutu‘.

Simone de Beauvoir chaired a meeting there on 26 January 1971 with speakers including Sartre, Jean-Luc Godard and Marguerite Duras in support of the banned Maoist newspaper, la Cause du Peuple.

In 1860 Émile Zola was thrown out of No. 35 for not paying his rent after staying in a room under the roof for a few weeks. During that time his friend from Aix-en-Provence, Paul Cézanne, visited him there.

A view Zola would have had of the St Nicolas du Chardonnet church before it got its1934 facade.

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Rue de Seine

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 16, 31, 60

The road was initially built on part of the moat around the city of Paris walls leading up to the River Seine, and briefly called the Rue du Sénat from 1867 until the fall of Napoleon III.

It’s well known partly because of the Jacques Prévert poem of the same name.

Maximillien Luce, the anarchist sympathiser and friend of Félix Fénéon, had a flat at No. 16 that he lived in when in Paris.

George Sand lived at No 31 in 1831, soon after she embraced republicanism

1830 was a life-changing time for many. George Sand lived at No. 31 in 1831.

De Beauvoir stayed until 1948 in the Lousiane, that became known in the 1950s and 1960s as a very cheap place to stay for American jazz musicians like  Oscar PetersonMiles DavisBud PowellMax RoachDizzy GillespieArt BlakeyBillie HolidayLester Young and Charlie Parker.

After she was excluded from earning a living by teaching in June 1943, Simone de Beauvoir moved with Sartre to live at the Hotel La Louisiane at no. 60. She lived in room 58, Sartre in room 10. They spent their days (when Sartre wasn’t teaching) at the Cafe de Flore.



Arrondissement 5

1, rue Victor Cousin 

The best-known Paris university was not just an added extra to the city. In many ways it and the growth of a complex of partly-religious partly-educational buildings actually created the city. Throughout the Middle Ages the Sorbonne and nearby religious institutions drew the sons of young wealthy people towards Paris from across Europe.

The university was the principal motor of the city’s growth before the Court years. It was founded by Robert de Sorbon in 1257. Richelieu ordered its rebuilding and had doubled its size by 1642.

For nearly eight centuries its students have included many of the most radical thinkers and activists – often ready to challenge the status quo that was more often than not represented by the university’s teachers.

Among the left students who passed through the Sorbonne were Lenin’s younger sister – a few years after he had been invited to lecture there on the Russian agrarian question. Lucie Aubrac, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre also studied there.

One exception to the dominant anti-radical teachers at the Sorbonne was Marc Bloch, who taught there from 1936 to 1940 when he was dismissed for being Jewish.

In May 1968 the Sorbonne was at the centre of the student demonstrations that had begun at Nanterre. Partly as a result it was divided in 1970 into several different institutions and several now include the word ‘Sorbonne’ in their titles.

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Rue Vavin

Arrondissement 6

Numbers 10, 16-17, 21, 26, 45, 50

Built in 1831 on an old path called the ‘Passage de l’Ouest‘ and owned by Alexis Vavin, a lawyer who became a politician and moved from being a liberal in the 1840s to becoming a monarchist in 1849, the street now runs from the Luxembourg Gardens to cut across the Boulevard Raspail and end on the Boulevard du Montparnasse.

An architectural draughtsman, Eugène Chemalé (1838-?), a mutualist and supporter of Proudhon, lived at No. 10. He was elected to the Paris committee of the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) established in France in January 1865. At its first 1866 congress held in Geneva, he successfully opposed giving the State authority to educate children, unless their father could not do it. In February 1868 he was arrested and fined for participating in an illegal organisation.

During the Bloody Week of May 1871 a barricade was built and defended for two days against the Versaillais troops between Nos. 16 and 17. On 23 May, when forced to reteat, the Communards blew up their stock of ammunition.

Living in the Hotel Danemark in an exceptionally cold winter in 1940-41 gave more heat than Simone de Beauvoir’s grandmother’s flat.

After Sartre was called up in October 1939, Simone de Beauvoir moved to the Denmark Hotel at No. 21. Along with many other Parisians she fled the city in June 1940 and, after spending July to September back in her grandmother’s flat in the Avenue Denfert-Rochereau, she returned to the Danemark there during the harsh winter of 1940-41 because it provided a little heat.

This 1941 photograph shows the original step-like 1926 building at No 26 Rue Vavin that was declared an Historical Monument in 1975. It was designed by Charles Sarasin and Henri Sauvage, the leading art nouveau and modernist architect..

One of the few Communards with extensive military experience, the Polish General Jaroslaw Dombrowski (1836-1871) who was mortally wounded on the Rue Myrha barricade on May 23, lived at No 45. He too was a member of the IWMA. He had been given command over the Commune’s defences on the right bank.

The American leftist feminist and journalist, Louise Bryant, who married John Reed in 1916, and covered the Russian Revolution and aftermath, died in No 50. on January 6 1936.


Rue Victor Schoelcher

Arrondissement 14

Number 11bis

The street was opened in 1894 when part of the land owned by the Montparnasse Cemetery was sold by Paris for housing development. It was named in honour of the republican campaigner against slavery who died in 1893. Schoelcher drafted the abolitionist decree of April 27 1848 and then lived in exile throughout the Second Empire.

In 1913 Picasso moved in to No. 5bis, next to the No. 5, now a building classified as an official historical monument. Picasso lived there until 1916. No. 5 is now the Giacometti Institute in Paris, including a recreation of the Swiss sculptor’s studio.

From 1913 to 1916 Pablo Picasso lived in No 5bis. The building next door, No 5 is classified as a Historical Monument and from 2018 hosts the Giacometti Institute.

In 1955, shortly after winning the Concourt prize for literature with her 1954 book, The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir moved in to a ground floor flat at No. 11bis with Claude Lanzmann, the left Jewish editor of Les Temps Modernes and film-maker 18 years younger than her. She fell in love with him when he was in his late 20s, and lived there with him until her death in 1986.

The street overlooking the Montparnasse Cemetery only has odd numbers, including No. 11 shown on the right
The plaque honouring Simone de Beauvoir on the wall at 11bis Rue Victor Schoelcher, close to where she and Sartre lie together in the Montparnasse Cemetery.



Women ready to fight at a barricade in the Rochechouart district in May 1871

From 1791 French feminists argued for their natural rights. In the 1830s and 1840s many women campaigned for equality and the vote. Many saw the 1871 Commune as a route to equality and fought on the barricades. In 1909 a French women’s suffrage movement was established. France’s senate rejects giving women the vote in 1922 , 1935 and 1936. The vote was finally given by the 1945 Fourth Republic constitution. In 1975 women win the right to have an abortion. In 2017 French women’s average wage was still 24% less than men’s, and their pensions are 42% lower.

Marthe Bigot

1878-1962, Montargis (Loiret)

Teacher, feminist, and anti-war activist during World War I. Founder member of the Communist Party, which she left in 1926. A campaigner for female suffrage, she organised women’s candidacies at elections, taking up a pre-war tradition, and in March 1922 presented her own “symbolic candidacy” in the Paris municipal elections; unable to hold her own meetings she demanded speaking rights at those of other candidates, and despite being ineligible as a woman came third in the vote.


Twenty 19th century French writers, including George Sand, Victor Hugo, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine and Émile Zola

Those referenced will include 20th century leftist writers (novelists, poets, song-writers, philosophers such as: Aimé Césaire, Jean-Paul Sartre, Victor Serge, Ernest Hemingway, Andre Breton, Louis Aragon, Guillaume Apollinaire, Georges Brassens, Marc Bloch, Pierre Bourdieu, Louis Althusser, Andre Gorz, Daniel Bensaid, Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon, Benoite Groult, Andre Malraux as well as many 19th century republicans and socialists such as Victor Hugo, Daniel Stern, George Sand, Flora Tristan, Alphonse de Lamartine, Emile Zola, Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Stephane Mallarme

Poems from the left