We were so busy in Paris these past few days that I didn't have a chance to blog about it. Here's what I wrote the night before we left, at the invitation of Red Room to write about that city:
City of revolution | Geoffrey Edmund Fox | Blog Post | Red Room
Two things I've decided about my next book: it will not be "historical fiction" in the sense that Mario Vargas Llosa dismisses that term, i.e., a costume drama of two or three characters with "history" as the stage set. Rather it will be an attempt to understand history itself, or rather one of its most world-consequential chapters. And that Paris, the whole of Paris, with its millions of individuals, factions, conflicting interests and desires, will be the protagonist. The chapter of interest will be the Commune of 1871, along with the war (France v. Prussia, 1870) and ensuing the siege that led up to it, and the repercussions still felt down to our times in places as far away as Tahrir Square in Cairo. Many of the actors and actions of the Commune are well-documented and hotly debated; more than a thousand books were published on it in the first 50 years (somebody took the trouble of counting, in the Bibliothèque Nationale). But other characters and events — including the anonymous proletarians of the Commune, the later readers inspired by their example for other movements in other lands — can only be reconstructed imaginatively.
What I propose is to try to comprehend history through characters like Weber's invention of "ideal types", but instead of leaving the "types" as abstractions, imagining them into life in all their confusions and complexity. The book I envision will be essay and novel, analysis and fiction, all meant to say something not about a dead past but about our living aspirations. Like Tolstoy's War and Peace, or Javier Cerca's Soldados de Salamina, and even Vargas Llosa's "non-historical fiction" recreations of the past (La fiesta del chivo, La guerra del fin del mundo, etc.) and all imaginative literature that aims at more than entertainment.