Rise of the Communist Party

The 1920 Christmas-time congress of the Socialist Party at Tours splits with the majority setting up the French Section of the Communist International

Nationalism, Reparations, Imperialism, Socialist split, Communist Party, Class against Class to Popular Front – in progress

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.


Rue Monsieur le Prince

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 14, 16, 20, 41, 56, 63, 65

Rue Monsieur le Prince viewed from the Boulevard St Michel

Until the 1960s the narrow road climbing up from the Boulevard St Germain towards the Boulevard St Michel was much as it had always been in the 19th and 20th centuries: a very low-cost area for students, artists and revolutionaries to live amid cafes and bookshops.

The road originally skirted the Charles V city wall and was called after the court title of the Prince of Condé, whose palace grounds bordered the road. From 1793 to 1805 during the French Revolution the road was renamed ‘Rue de la Liberté’.

The triangle of land, mansion and estate occupied by the House of Condé between the Rue Monsieur le Prince, the Rue de Condé and the Rue de Vaugirard in the Turgot plan of Paris in 1740

To get an idea of the wealth and stature of the Condé branch of the Bourbon family, you can take a look at the door to No. 4 – built on the site of the stables of the Condé town house.

The wonderful door and window above it at 4 Rue Monsieur le Prince are all that remain of the private Hôtel de Bacq, built in 1750 for Pierre Darlons, the secretary of the Prince of Conde

The black American writer Richard Wright lived at No. 14 from 1948 to 1959, the year before he died in Paris aged 52. A plaque has been put up to his memory, not mentioning the reports he gave to the American embassy on Nkrumah and French communists he met, arguably doing so to ensure the renewal of his passport. The building has another interesting door built under the Second Empire.

The wooden sculpted entrance to the four-floored building at No. 14 is in the Napoleon III style. On the right the libertine, on the left the student.

Next door, at No. 16, there used to be a very long-lasting anarchist bookshop. It survived from 1908 to 1932 and before the First World War was a regular meeting place for anarchist trade unionists.

A couple of doors further up the road, the Communist Party owned the Racine/Social publications bookshop at No. 20 in 1938.

No. 20 was also where, after midnight on December 5 1986 a young student, Malik Oussekine, coming out of a jazz club, was chased down the road to the entrance where he was beaten to death by riot police who attacked him because he was an Algerian and young. The previous day hundreds of thousands of young people had taken part in the day’s demonstrations against the Devaquet election reform. The police tried to cover the murder by calling an ambulance that took the dead body to hospital. Three years later two of the three police were found guilty of wounding Oussekine so badly that he died, and given suspended sentences of five and two years in prison.

On December 6 2006, 20 years later, a memorial plaque was put in the pavement outside No. 20 at a ceremony led by the Paris Mayor, Betrand Delanoë. The sister of the victim found it strange that it wasn’t on the wall. Others criticised the reference to a demonstration that had occurred on December 4, and that it didn’t say that two policemen had been found guilty of his murder.

Paul Verlaine, moving frequently in the last years of his life, lived in No. 21 in 1894, while much earlier, Arthur Rimbaud had a room at No. 41 in May 1872.

Over the years Verlaine and many other writers and artists like James Joyce, Hemingway and Max Ernst used to eat at the Polidor restaurant on the ground floor of No. 41. Until recently its old style benches on which basic French food is served was commanded over by a stereotypical in-your-face French waitress. Now, however, it has even expanded and set up a wine shop.

In 1920, Nguyên Ai Quôc, the future Ho Chi Minh, lived at No. 56. He would have been not at all pleased by the coincidence that led the Indochinese section of the Trotskyist Communist League to meet at No. 65 in 1930.

The first cheap room where the teenage Émile Zola lived on arriving in Paris in 1858 was at No. 63.

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Boulevard du Montparnasse

Arrondissements: 6, 14 and 15

Numbers 99, 102, 103, 108, 126, 132, 142, 159, 171

The terrace of Le Dôme reflects the Metro station and La Rotonde café on the uneven numbered side of the boulevard du Montparnasse

The boulevard du Montparnasse crosses three arrondissements. The odd numbers on the north side are all in the 6th; the even numbers from 2 to 66 are in the 15th; and from number 68 onwards the addresses are all in the 14th. It was named with reference to the Greek residence of the muses by 17th century students after a tiny hillock in the area.

One excellent source on the left in Paris, the website Parisrévolutionnaire suggests that both Lenin and Trotsky were at the Dôme in 1905. Hazan (IOP), however, insists the Dôme… should never have been allowed to call itself the café of Trotsky and Kertész.

What is certainly true is that in the early years of the 19th century, the Dôme at No 108 became a major intellectual centre, and attracted many left political and artistic people.

Pablo Picasso as well as Modigliani, Utrillo and Apollinaire all drank or ate at le Dôme (No. 108) and la Rotonde (No. 103). The owner of La Rotonde was denounced by Aragon on July 13 1923 for having been a police informer on Lenin before World War One. Other neighbouring well-frequented intellectual and artist cafes of the interwar years included la Coupole (No. 102-104) and le Select (No. 99) .

The wounded black Foreign Legion corporal, Eugene Bullard, is reported as having decided while at the Coupole in the Spring of 1916, to become a pilot in the French air force.

Simone De Beauvoir lived in a flat above the Rotonde for the first ten years of her life before the father’s family lost most of its wealth in World War 1.

Diego Rivera was also part of this leftish Montparnasse scene in the early 20th century.

Léon Blum moved to the group of artists studios and flats soon after it was built in 1908 at 126 boulevard Montparnasse.

Léon Blum saw himself primarily as a writer before 1914, moving into the artists’ block of flats and studios at No. 126 boulevard Montparnasse. Henri Matisse lived and worked at No. 132 in 1927.

From 1865 to 1866, after the publication of his first novel, Émile Zola lived in a room at No. 142.

In the 1920s Le Dôme became a meeting place for many English-language writers like Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis and Sylvia Beach. In 1924 John Dos Passos joined other American writers at No. 171 the La Closerie des Lilas bar.

La Closerie des Lilas used to be a cheapish outside bar with dancing visited by lots of poets, artists and philosophers from the first half of the 20th century is now a big pricey restaurant

At the eastern end of the Boulevard near the Port Royal, this famous restaurant is where in June 1941 Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre organised a clandestine ‘Socialism and Freedom’ meeting of about 50 intellectuals, including Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Yet in the face of increasing repression they did not do much more, and in September 1941 Sartre agreed to take the job of a secondary school teacher who had been fired for being Jewish.

Hemingway was also known to eat frequently in the years 1924-1926 at the Le Nègre de Toulouse restaurant at No 159.

Louis Aragon met Mayakovsky for the first time at the Coupole on November 5 1928. The Coupole was requisitioned between 1940 and 1944 for German-only events

Earlier, under the Second Empire that he satirised so brilliantly, Émile Zola lived at No 142 in 1865 to 1866.


Rue de l’Odéon

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 7, 10, 12, 22

Rue de l Odeon photographed in 1905 from the steps of the Theatre. The bust of the playwright Emile Augier in the centre of the square was melted down in 1942 to be turned into German guns

The gently climbing slope from the crossroads with the Boulevard St Germain up to what is now called the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, was opened up in 1779 as the rue du Théâtre Français. The theatre at the southern top of the slope was built between 1779 and 1782 in the garden of the huge Hôtel de Condé private house, owned by a junior branch of the Bourbons.

Thanks to the opening of the theatre, in 1782 the road was the very first in Paris to be given pavements with gutters running next to them. It was given its current name in 1797 under the Directorate.

A watercolour and ink painting by a contemporary JD Periel of the fire at the Odeon Theatre on March 20 1818

The surrealist poets André Breton and Louis Aragon first met each other in 1917 at No. 7, the bookshop called ‘The Friends of Books’ (Maison des Amis des Livres). This bookshop was also frequented by Jacques Prévert. On March 19 1918 Breton and Aragon launched their magazine, Littérature, from there.  Among the other literary left figures who wrote for it were André Gide and Paul Valéry.

The bookshop’s owner, Adrienne Monnier, held a launch party at No. 7 for James Joyce‘s novel Ulysses on December 7 1922.

No. 10 was where Thomas Paine lived from 1797 to 1802, when, describing Bonaparte ‘as the biggest charlatan the world as ever seen’, he took the opportunity of a brief peace with England to leave Paris for America.

Tom Paine lived for five years at No. 10 Rue de l’Odeon. While initially hoping Bonaparte would spread freedom throughout Europe he quickly became disillusioned, and left France at the earliest opportunity in 1802.

Next door was another famous bookshop. No 12 was the first site of the English-language bookshop Shakespeare & Company. Owned by an American, Sylvia Beach, it became a major draw for radical writers living in Paris in the interwar years such as Hemingway, James Joyce and Simone de Beauvoir.

Shakespeare and Co at No 12 with Sylvia Beach and Ernest Hemingway on the right around 1922

Further up the street, on March 31 1794, this was where at No. 22 rue du Théâtre Français that Camille Desmoulins was arrested. He had lived there since 1782. He was executed with Danton on April 5. His wife, Lucile, was executed a week later. They had married in 1790 with Robespierre a witness who in 1792 became their son’s godfather.


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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