rue de la chanvrerie

Charles Marville, photograph of the Rue Mondétour taken from the Rue Rambuteau (former Rue de la Chanverrerie), circa 1865. Another “about as close as we’re gonna get” image of the site of Hugo’s barricade. I think the high-res version has done the rounds on Tumblr before, but damn if I can find it, so here it is again.

Note the lighter horizontal band in the lower half of the picture–that’s not a crease or any other kind of damage. It’s a ghost… or more likely several ghosts. The widened Rue Rambuteau became a busy thoroughfare, and due to the long exposure time on the photograph, any passerby would’ve been reduced to a faint blur at head height.

Priesthood and Poetry

Note: A small contribution for Barricade Day 2016. After Le Cabuc, Enjolras and Prouvaire talk together on the barricade, sharing a moment in a space of quiet, reflecting on sacrifice, the nature of revolution, and sin-eaters. Based largely on two things; one, I’m always wanting to see more interaction between Enjolras and Prouvaire, and two, I saw in a piece of meta once the idea that Enjolras was something like a sin-eater, and I wanted to explore that a bit.

June 5, 1832

Street warfare offers strange, unexpected silences.

Enjolras takes advantage of one of these, the odd quiet devoid of preparation and shouts and gunfire almost loud in his ears, and steps toward the back of the barricade. He closes his eyes a moment, leaning his hand against the wall of the Corinthe and taking in a breath. He hears what sounds like the marching footsteps of more National Guardsmen somewhere near the rue de la Chanvrerie; you are the chief, he reminds himself. You must focus.

He looks down at his hands, heavy with the weight of Le Cabuc’s blood despite nary a splatter on his skin.

I’ve obeyed necessity, he hears himself say.

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someone needs to write the Sandman crossover yesterday

So it occurred to me this morning that as Hugo wrote it, the barricade in the rue de la Chanvrerie is some creepy straight-up Neil Gaiman shit. It’s a liminal space, unreal and hyper-real, a canon-divergence AU of history that follows the broad structure of the real events at Saint-Merry but… when you look closer it’s out of place and out of time. The shades of all the revolutions of the first half of the nineteenth century–1830, 1832, 1834, February and June 1848, 1851–are superimposed there, time seems dilated there, you forget that it all takes place in less than 24 hours. And not only is it set in a place that may or may not have had a real barricade in June 1832–it’s undocmented but plausible, and the world will never know–it’s set in a place that's emblematic of the Paris that no longer existed, and called by a name that never officially existed in the first place. Did you know that the first street to ever be created in the great Paris urban renovations of the 19th century was the Rue Rambuteau, the one that replaced the demolished Rue de la Chanverrerie? And then as though to add another twist of unreality–or another claim that the raw stuff of history as it’s experienced is a subtly different dimension than history as it’s recorded–Hugo insists that whatever its official name was, that street was always popularly called the Rue de la Chanvrerie. And he persists in calling it that, in drawing the distinction between the historical Rue de la Chanverrerie and the mythical Rue de la Chanvrerie. The Rue de la Chanvrerie isn't just a place where some people decided by chance to build a barricade–when they did so, they missed the historic and entered the mythic, an enclosed epic borderland where eighty men enter and eight men leave, a space that’s more real for never having existed in the first place. Or to leave the last word to Hugo, the barricade in the Rue de la Chanvrerie isn’t made of paving stones, nor of wood beams, nor of iron bars, it’s made of two heaps, a heap of ideas and a heap of sorrows. Suffering brings its agony there–and ideas their immortality.

Then there burst forth on that heap of paving-stones, in that Rue de la Chanvrerie, a battle worthy of a wall of Troy. These haggard, ragged, exhausted men, who had had nothing to eat for four and twenty hours, who had not slept, who had but a few more rounds to fire, who were fumbling in their pockets which had been emptied of cartridges, nearly all of whom were wounded, with head or arm bandaged with black and blood-stained linen, with holes in their clothes from which the blood trickled, and who were hardly armed with poor guns and notched swords, became Titans. The barricade was ten times attacked, approached, assailed, scaled, and never captured. In order to form an idea of this struggle, it is necessary to imagine fire set to a throng of terrible courages, and then to gaze at the conflagration. It was not a combat, it was the interior of a furnace; there mouths breathed the flame; there countenances were extraordinary. The human form seemed impossible there, the combatants flamed forth there, and it was formidable to behold the going and coming in that red glow of those salamanders of the fray.

The successive and simultaneous scenes of this grand slaughter we renounce all attempts at depicting. The epic alone has the right to fill twelve thousand verses with a battle.

One would have pronounced this that hell of Brahmanism, the most redoubtable of the seventeen abysses, which the Veda calls the Forest of Swords.

They fought hand to hand, foot to foot, with pistol shots, with blows of the sword, with their fists, at a distance, close at hand, from above, from below, from everywhere, from the roofs of the houses, from the windows of the wine-shop, from the cellar windows, whither some had crawled. They were one against sixty.
—  Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
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The Barricade from Les Misérables took place at the corner of the Rue Mondétour and Rue de la Chanvrerie. After the remodelling of Paris’ streets following the 1871 Commune, the Rue de la Chanvrerie disappeared to becomes what we now know as Rue Rambuteau, near the metro station Les Halles.

The Rue Mondétour still exists though, and what used to be the café Corinthe, frequently receiving Grantaire’s patronnage, is now Le Détour.
On the first floor, you see the windows from which Bossuet, Joly and Grantaire encouraged Courfeyrac to build the barricade in the street: “La place est bonne.”
It is also where Grantaire and Enjolras died.
The barricade stood on the (now) rue Rambuteau, more to the left of these pictures.