BOOK

An Intellectual Journey through Paris
By John Poulos


‘Paris is the city of cities, the city of men. Paris is one great haven of welcome…. A home of light, a centre of intellect, heart and soul, a core of universal thought…’ — Victor Hugo

An Intellectual Journey through Paris traces the history of Paris as a pivotal point in the development of western thought. Paris has long been known as the intellectual capital of the world, the first modern city and the capital of modernity. Paris’ reputation as the intellectual capital of the world is more than justified. Writers, philosophers, composers, artists, scientists and many others flooded into Paris, not in their hundreds but in their thousands.

This book is not just about Paris but is an epic journey through history: following Julius Caesar, in one of the greatest military victories in history, vanquishing Gallic tribes; the rise of Christianity and the Crusaders roasting of babies in the Holy Land; the beheading of Saint Denis; the castration of Abelard; exploring the philosophers from Aristotle through to Descartes to Marx and on to Sartre and his brain-twisting existentialism; the conflicts between England and France and why leading figures in English history are buried not far from Paris; and on to the revolutionaries with Liberty, Equality and Fraternity on their lips as they man the barricades again and again.

The great scientists are tracked: from the clash of astronomers over Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, to the execution of Lavoisier, the discoverer of oxygen, through to the first automobile and to Foucault swinging a giant pendulum in the Pantheon to prove that the Earth rotates; to Pasteur’s germ theory, the man who said more germs are transmitted in shaking hands than in kissing; and on to the discoveries of quinine, chlorophyll, and caffeine, and the synthesising of new chemicals not found in nature.

The book follows the great naturalists piecing together the fossil bones of dinosaurs on the way to unfolding the theory of evolution. Also there are the literary figures such as Hugo, Balzac, Flaubert, Zola, Hemingway, Verne, and so many others whose stories we are familiar with: Don Juan, Madame Bovary, The Three Musketeers, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Around the World in 80 Days, Ali Baba, Little Red Riding Hood, Tom Thumb, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella — they are all French stories.

Then there are the artists such as Matisse, with his “violent” use of colour, and Picasso’s five nude prostitutes; and Manet, who shocks and awes with his nude Olympia, Courbet’s The Stonebreakers, regarded as one of the most important paintings in art history; and Toulouse Lautrec painting at the Moulin Rouge.

As well there are the sculptors, with Rodin’s The Kiss, the sensual embrace of two lovers, and The Thinker, thinking with every ounce of his being. Paris was also the music capital of the world, where the music of French composers can be heard in movies and television ads: Debussy’s Clair de Lune in Ocean’s Eleven; Ravel’s Bolero in the movie 10, Saint-Saens’ The Carnival of Animals in Babe, and Bizet’s Carmen making Paris the artistic centre of the world.

This book integrates art, literature, music, science, philosophy, economics and many other disciplines to reveal how all of history is interconnected.

John Poulos is a former Editor of Education. The book is available through Berkelouw, Abbeys, Gleebooks, Oscar and Friends at Double Bay or Lesley McKay’s Bookshop in Woollahra or johnnypoulos2@gmail.com and he will post out a copy. RRP $59.95.