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September 23 , 2010

Paris at the End of the World

The City of Light During the Great War, 1914-1918


A preeminent writer on Paris, John Baxter brilliantly brings to life one of the most dramatic and fascinating periods in the city's history. During World War I, the terrifying sounds of the nearby front could be heard from inside the French capital; Germany's "Paris Gun" and enemy aviators routinely bombarded the city.

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And yet in its darkest hour, the City of Light blazed more brightly than ever. Its taxis shuttled troops to the front; its great railway stations received reinforcements from across the world; its grand museums and cathedrals housed the wounded; and the Eiffel Tower hummed at all hours, relaying messages to and from the trenches. At night, Parisians lived with urgency and without inhibition, embracing the lush and the libertine. The rich hosted parties that depleted their wine cellars of the finest vintages. Artists such as Pablo Picasso achieved new creative heights. And the war brought a wave of foreigners to the city for the first time, including Ernest Hemingway and Baxter's own grandfather, Archie, whose diaries he uses to reconstruct a soldier's-eye view of the war years.

Uncovering a thrilling chapter in Paris's history, John Baxter's revelatory new book shows how this extraordinary period was essential in forging the spirit of the city we love today.

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