Baker & Taylor
A provocative portrait of 1930s Paris captures the colorful artistic, political, cultural, and social milieus of a city that had become the center of world civilization during the period, set against the backdrop of the growing political storm that would soon engulf Europe in war.
Blackwell North Amer
Paris has always been a magical place for artistic and cultural life. Now, in this splendid, sparkling book, Olivier Bernier chronicles Paris's most dazzling decade, the 1930s. For at that time Paris was especially brilliant; as art, culture, and society reached spectacular achievements, the city was considered to be the center of civilization. Yet at the same time, Paris was spiraling dangerously downward to the political and economic disaster of World War II. In Fireworks at Dusk, Olivier Bernier paints a stunning portrait of Paris amidst the vibrant hysteria - artistic, social, cultural, and political - that defined the decade.
By the 1930s, following the whirlwind of the 1920s and transformed by the "war to end all wars," Parisian society was mad for pleasure, with great open-air parties, lavish costume balls, scintillating nightclubs, and splendid cafes. Here is Paris at a time when its leading citizens dressed better, gave more glamorous parties, were wittier and more amusing than their counterparts anywhere else.
In these pages, Bernier gathers together the great names, fortunes, and talents of the period - artists, writers, designers, party givers, and political figures: Picasso, Dali, Gide, Giraudoux, Jean Renoir, Malraux, Cocteau, Schiaparelli, Janet Flanner, Elsa Maxwell, Lady Mendl, the comtesse de Fels, the princesse de Polignac, Leon Blum, Paul Reynaud, and Charles de Noailles, to name but a few. On any given night one could make a beeline for the Casino de Paris to hear Josephine Baker sing her signature tune, "J'ai Deux Amours"; drink lethal alcoholic concoctions such as the Three Mile Limit while rubbing shoulders with the social elite of the Tout-Paris; attend the premiere of Enesco's Oedipe; and if one wore the very latest Schiaparelli, one could wind up as an item in Genet's (Janet Flanner's) lively, witty column in The New Yorker. Not only were society and the arts communicating again, but both cultures were intertwined and thriving, and these extraordinary stories reveal on the most intimate level what was happening to Paris at this vibrant time.
Yet beyond the walled gardens of the lavish costume balls, the city resonated with the footsteps of striking workers, political drumbeats, and the stomping of German boots. Olivier Bernier also depicts the city of light crumbling into a city under siege from the gathering political storm in Europe. He describes the World's Fair of 1937, set along the banks of the Seine, where the Spanish pavilion included Picasso's Guernica and the German pavilion was decorated with an enormous swastika. There is also a famous episode in which the mistresses of two prominent politicians squared off in a battle to promote the ascendance of their favorite candidate.
Fireworks at Dusk is a richly detailed account of the extraordinary artistic, political, cultural, and social life of Paris in the 1930s, and a thorough examination of the city's anguishing and inexorable slide toward World War II. Olivier Bernier elegantly captures the mood and spirit of this city of paradoxes - the city of light at its most brilliant moment, and perhaps its final burst of light: fireworks at dusk.
Describes the art, culture, society, and politics of the period, and looks at the most influential people of that time