Threshold of a New World: Intellectuals and the Exile Experience in Paris, 1830–1848
Restoration and Reaction, 1815–1848
Paris has long been a powerful symbol as well as a city, and it has symbolized many contradictory things. It is the city of luxury and high glamour—“centre de luxe et des lumières,” as the anarchist P-J Proudhon called it, a city to which men were attracted by, as Gustave Flaubert wrote, “les femmes, le luxe, et tout ce que comporte l’existence parisienne.” But at the same time it is the city of revolutions, not just of the great French Revolution but of the revolutions of 1830, 1848, of the Commune of 1871, and even—perhaps a last pale reflection—of the évènements of 1968.
Lloyd S. Kramer takes the title of his study of three exiles in the Paris of the 1840s—Heine, Marx, and Mickiewicz—from the memoirs of the German radical Arnold Ruge, who on setting out for Paris, where he was joined by the young Karl and Jenny Marx, wrote in a wellknown passage:
We are going to Paris, the threshold of a new world. May it live up to our dreams! At the end of our journey we will find the vast valley of Paris, the cradle of the new Europe, the great laboratory where world history is formed and has its ever-fresh source. It is in Paris that we shall live our victories and our defeats. Even our philosophy, the field where we are in advance of our time, will only be able to triumph when proclaimed in Paris and impregnated with the French spirit.
And indeed Paris in the reign of Louis-Philippe was an extraordinary center of literary, intellectual, and artistic talent: in an appendix Kramer lists thirty-nine names of French writers, philosophers, and historians (though only one composer—Berlioz—and one painter—Delacroix) who, if not all of world class (who now reads Marie d’Agoult, or Mignet, or the official philosopher of the July Monarchy, Victor Cousin, author of Du vrai, du beau, et du bien?), nevertheless make up an impressive collection, even without the thirty-five foreign intellectuals also listed.
But however excited Marx and Ruge may have been at the prospect of the intellectual life of Paris, their reasons for going there were more specific. Paris was a place where publication would be easier and where it would be more possible to reach a wider international audience than under the eyes of the Prussian censors, as well as being a place where social thinkers were continuing the revolutionary tradition. At first, therefore, Marx was a voluntary exile, but his articles soon aroused the displeasure of the Prussian government, and at their request he was expelled from Paris in 1845. He went to Brussels, then, except for a brief return to Paris and Germany during the revolutions of 1848, to London, where his exile became lifelong.
Heine too had gone voluntarily into exile in 1831, feeling himself to be displaced in Germany—a converted Jew, with no job or money, on bad terms with his rich uncle, disappointed in love, but seeing in Paris.
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.