Marcel Carné's film Les Enfants du paradis, which began in 1943 under the watchful eye of Vichy and the German occupiers, serves as an apt introduction to this book. The image of Paris as spectacle stands for modernity and determines the way we perceive and represent the city in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This book investigates how the public space of Paris was reshaped by the conflict of World War II, the postwar period of rebuilding, and the trente glorieuses of modernization between 1945 and 1975. It not only provides a wide-angle perspective on spatiality, but also creates a cohesive and tangible historic structure to this period of transition. The book emphasizes commonality of vision and thinking and captures this mental picture of Paris using a number of terms: nostalgic, poetic, humanistic, communistic, revolutionary, romanticized, and intensely emotive. It settles on “poetic humanism” and its counterpart, “poetic space,” as the idioms that most closely capture the spirit of this imagined landscape.
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