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.

BY THE WAY THOUGH. I started reading/flipping through The Insurgent Barricade and it has maps of the barricade locations in 1830 and 1848 in this area! And in both cases there WAS a barricade on Rue de la Chanvrerie… only it was in the other end of the street both times, in the crossroads with Rue Saint-Denis. And both times it seemed to be a part of a set of barricades with two bigger ones blocking Rue Saint-Denis on both sides:

1848 (starting with this because it’s clearer and has fewer barricades.) The red ones on the right are the Les Mis barricades for reference. (Although they started out with only two. I marked all three.)

This set up actually makes a lot of sense to me? You get control of Rue Saint-Denis (which IS a major street at the time), there’s the small and easily defensible passage on the right that you can use as a back door/cover and even if your main barricades get destroyed you can just retreat to Rue de la Chanvrerie. 

Lots more barricades in 1830. Including one approximately where the third Les Mis barricade was! On Rue Mondétour. But it also has the exact same positions for the three Rue de la Chanvrerie barricades as the 1848 map. There’s just a lot more barricades surrounding them.

No maps of barricades in 1832, at least I didn’t see any so far. I’m not surprised but it’s a bit of a shame. Still, this is already amazing.

Gavroche was staring into the air, apparently in search of something. He saw Jean Valjean perfectly well but he took no notice of him.

Gavroche after staring into the air, stared below; he raised himself on tiptoe, and felt of the doors and windows of the ground floor; they were all shut, bolted, and padlocked. After having authenticated the fronts of five or six barricaded houses in this manner, the urchin shrugged his shoulders, and took himself to task in these terms:—

“Pardi!”

Then he began to stare into the air again.

Jean Valjean, who, an instant previously, in his then state of mind, would not have spoken to or even answered any one, felt irresistibly impelled to accost that child.

“What is the matter with you, my little fellow?” he said.

“The matter with me is that I am hungry,” replied Gavroche frankly. And he added: “Little fellow yourself.”

Jean Valjean fumbled in his fob and pulled out a five-franc piece.

But Gavroche, who was of the wagtail species, and who skipped vivaciously from one gesture to another, had just picked up a stone. He had caught sight of the lantern.

“See here,” said he, “you still have your lanterns here. You are disobeying the regulations, my friend. This is disorderly. Smash that for me.”

And he flung the stone at the lantern, whose broken glass fell with such a clatter that the bourgeois in hiding behind their curtains in the opposite house cried: “There is ‘Ninety-three’ come again.”

The lantern oscillated violently, and went out. The street had suddenly become black.

“That’s right, old street,” ejaculated Gavroche, “put on your night-cap.”

And turning to Jean Valjean:—

“What do you call that gigantic monument that you have there at the end of the street? It’s the Archives, isn’t it? I must crumble up those big stupids of pillars a bit and make a nice barricade out of them.”

Jean Valjean stepped up to Gavroche.

“Poor creature,” he said in a low tone, and speaking to himself, “he is hungry.”

And he laid the hundred-sou piece in his hand.

Gavroche raised his face, astonished at the size of this sou; he stared at it in the darkness, and the whiteness of the big sou dazzled him. He knew five-franc pieces by hearsay; their reputation was agreeable to him; he was delighted to see one close to. He said:—

“Let us contemplate the tiger.”

He gazed at it for several minutes in ecstasy; then, turning to Jean Valjean, he held out the coin to him, and said majestically to him:—

“Bourgeois, I prefer to smash lanterns. Take back your ferocious beast. You can’t bribe me. That has got five claws; but it doesn’t scratch me.”

“Have you a mother?” asked Jean Valjean.

Gavroche replied:—

“More than you have, perhaps.”

“Well,” returned Jean Valjean, “keep the money for your mother!”

Gavroche was touched. Moreover, he had just noticed that the man who was addressing him had no hat, and this inspired him with confidence.

“Truly,” said he, “so it wasn’t to keep me from breaking the lanterns?”

“Break whatever you please.”

“You’re a fine man,” said Gavroche.

And he put the five-franc piece into one of his pockets.

His confidence having increased, he added:—

“Do you belong in this street?”

“Yes, why?”

“Can you tell me where No. 7 is?”

“What do you want with No. 7?”

Here the child paused, he feared that he had said too much; he thrust his nails energetically into his hair and contented himself with replying:—

“Ah! Here it is.”

An idea flashed through Jean Valjean’s mind. Anguish does have these gleams. He said to the lad:—

“Are you the person who is bringing a letter that I am expecting?”

“You?” said Gavroche. “You are not a woman.”

“The letter is for Mademoiselle Cosette, is it not?”

“Cosette,” muttered Gavroche. “Yes, I believe that is the queer name.”

“Well,” resumed Jean Valjean, “I am the person to whom you are to deliver the letter. Give it here.”

“In that case, you must know that I was sent from the barricade.”

“Of course,” said Jean Valjean.

Gavroche engulfed his hand in another of his pockets and drew out a paper folded in four.

Then he made the military salute.

“Respect for despatches,” said he. “It comes from the Provisional Government.”

“Give it to me,” said Jean Valjean.

Gavroche held the paper elevated above his head.

“Don’t go and fancy it’s a love letter. It is for a woman, but it’s for the people. We men fight and we respect the fair sex. We are not as they are in fine society, where there are lions who send chickens55 to camels.”

“Give it to me.”

“After all,” continued Gavroche, “you have the air of an honest man.”

“Give it to me quick.”

“Catch hold of it.”

And he handed the paper to Jean Valjean.

“And make haste, Monsieur What’s-your-name, for Mamselle Cosette is waiting.”

Gavroche was satisfied with himself for having produced this remark.

Jean Valjean began again:—

“Is it to Saint-Merry that the answer is to be sent?”

“There you are making some of those bits of pastry vulgarly called brioches [blunders]. This letter comes from the barricade of the Rue de la Chanvrerie, and I’m going back there. Good evening, citizen.”

— 

Chapter II, Book 15 of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

Can we just talk about this adorable scene from the brick? Like I really wish they’d had more interactions.

Gavroche: *breaks shit in the name of the revolution*

Valjean: “Clearly I must feed this child”

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.

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.

Keep reading

So - did the June Rebellion fail because the Amis were a group of rich, out of touch students who tried to embroil an unwilling working class in their revolution? 

That strikes me as not only a mischaracterisation of the Amis as Hugo wrote them and the fate that befalls them, but also of the historic rebellion of 1832. It did not fail because they were a group of out of touch “rich” students who tried to impose their rebellion on other unwilling classes: it failed because an authoritarian government successfully oppressed them.

The Amis were not all wealthy - they were a cross section of students, and of the lieutenants, only Enjolras and Prouvaire are explicitly described as “rich”. Bahorel comes from comfortably prosperous peasant stock, Bossuet is generally broke and flitting from one friend to the next with no money and no land to back him up, and Feuilly is of course a working class man. Students were not all wealthy - many came from the middle class. Grantaire certainly belongs to this (he has enough disposable cash to pursue fashionable bourgeois activities).

They are not disassociated from the working class cells that were also forming in this period - we are explicitly told that they have close ties to the workers, and in fact that is why they visit the Corinthe: because it is their base close to their working class colleagues. Republican revolutionary cells of the time, which were hampered by laws on assembly and association, tended to cluster around similar backgrounds. You had cells of students, cells of working men of particular professions, etc. It is important to remember that Les Miserables only shows us ONE small association, the Amis (it’s loosely based on La Société des amis du peuple, but that was a much larger, more broadly based group, where as the Amis de l’ABC are a small group - what Hugo calls a society in embryo). They operate under the pretext of being an educational group - the cover for their subversive activities. And in the lead up to the revolt and during the conflict, they are just one component of what is going on - and not even the largest barricade. The historic St-Merry barricade is referred to in the text - a much larger barricade, which had as its leader the working class Charles Jeanne, and which is comprised of a cosmopolitan cross section of students, working men, women, gamines, Polish refugees etc. That is the group that took to the streets on 5-6 June - not an small elite of deluded rich students who failed to gain the support of the masses, but thousands of Parisians, largely working and middle class.

What is more, the Amis are joined at their barricade by many others who joined them when the fighting broke out at the funeral - again, the organisation known as the Amis is only part of the effort. There are working men like longshoremen and the members of the Cougarde, for example, in the rue de la Chanvrerie barricade.  

The Amis, as written by Hugo, were only a part of the Republican movement of the period - and, historically, the events of 5-6 June 1832 were only a part of a revolutionary struggle that did not begin or end then, but rather an ongoing resistance to an oppressive government that would culminate in its overthrow….just as they had won in 1830, only to have their revolution stolen from them.

It makes absolute sense to me to suggest that their modern equivalent would also reflect diversity. The original Amis were a diverse bunch, according to how diversity at the time was measured (you had wealthy students, one who despised the hereditary particle representative of its class, a man of peasant stock, a poor working man who embraced people of all nations). Looking at it from a contemporary viewpoint we see a fairly homogeneous group that excludes women, for example, but for that era it was progressive and inclusive. Among the broader republican movement you also had women - and we do see women at the barricades - PoC (Alexandre Dumas was an ardent supporter of the republican movement and active during the June rebellion), Polish refugees like those Feuilly so fervently supported, etc.

So I do believe that a modern equivalent group of Amis would reflect our contemporary progressive ideas of diversity. For their time, they were radical, subversive, inclusive, egalitarian - as they understood those concepts. Certainly much more so than the wider authoritarian structure they rebelled against. However, it is hard to map contemporary student politics directly on to the Amis in many modern established democracies because they lived in a very different socio-political climate - they were effectively fighting an ongoing war on the streets, were denied avenues of protest that are open to us, had limitations on freedom of assembly and speech that are more invasive than those we still struggle with. They also had a much closer relationship with the middle and working class revolutionary groups than many contemporary student groups do with groups outside college campuses. This is why I find so many modern Amis AUs unsatisfactory - they don’t factor in the broader context of the Amis and the milieu of their struggle, and instead read them as naive, well meaning dilettantes who get themselves killed. A modern reading that has them as out of touch students ignorant of intersectionality and trying to talk over oppressed voices does not really present them as the equivalent of their historical counterparts.

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
Les Miserables Edit Meme - [1/3] Locations

The Rue de la Chanvrerie was not more than a gunshot long. Bossuet improvised a speaking-trumpet from his two hands placed around his mouth, and shouted:
“Courfeyrac! Courfeyrac! Hohee!”
Courfeyrac heard the shout, caught sight of Bossuet, and advanced a few paces into the Rue de la Chanvrerie, shouting: “What do you want?” which crossed a “Where are you going?”
“To make a barricade,” replied Courfeyrac.
“Well, here! This is a good place! Make it here!”
“That's true, Aigle,” said Courfeyrac.
And at a signal from Courfeyrac, the mob flung themselves into the Rue de la Chanvrerie.

- Les Miserables IV.XII.II

a barricade day walk

So I thought I’d try to retrace the steps of the crowd from the Rue de la Verrerie (where Courfeyrac lived) past the Corinth to the construction of the Chanvrerie barricade in 4.11.5-7.  Difficult, since quite of few of these streets don’t exist now, but here’s what I got:

“The crowd turned into Rue de la Verrerie…

Here’s Verrerie facing Beaubourg (towards Courfeyrac’s house and the Marais proper).  One then heads in the other direction, toward Les Halles:

Here’s Verrerie from St. Martin, a few blocks away from the St. Merry barricade. 

“A rabble does not determine precisely where it goes.  As we have explained, it is at the mercy of the wind.  They went beyond St.-Merry, and without really knowing how they ended up there, they found themselves in Rue St.-Denis.”

From St. Martin to St. Denis, it’s difficult to stay straight on Verrerie (which also changes names);  a little jog to the right takes you here:

(Note to self: do not ask Hugo for directions when attempting to escape from National Guard.  He’s not nearly specific enough.)

Now we are right around Place des Innocents.  It’s here that things get dicey because of this:

Namely, a huge construction site around Mondetour and Rambuteau, etc.  

Again, Hugo:

“None of this exists today.  The Mondetour maze was gutted and largely opened up as long ago as 1847, and by now is probably no more.  Rue de la Chanvrerie and Corinthe have disappeared beneath the paving stones of Rambuteau.”

The best we can do now is this:

Here, Mondetour runs into Rue du Cygne; approximately the site of this:

“Enjolras, Combeferre, and Courfeyrac directed everything.  Two barricades were now being constructed simultaneously…the larger one blocking Rue de la Chanvrerie, the other blocking Rue Mondetour on the Rue du Cygne side.  This latter barricade, which was very narrow, was constructed only of casks and cobblestones.”

I feel a bit bad for bashing Rambuteau - it’s really a lovely street.  One more photo in apology:

Hard to see, but the bakery is called La Fee de la Patisserie (roughly, the Pastry Fairy?) and the woman in front (who actually seems to work for the bakery) has both a bag full of cakes and decorations and a skeleton.  I get the feeling that Jehan might really groove on whatever party these are destined for.

3

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.