May, 1968 - Paris. I would like to learn about it.
April 29, 2008 7:34 AM   Subscribe

May, 1968 - Paris I've scoured the Wikipedia entry (very helpful), gone over a few articles and collections of varying quality (not bad), and I've seen "The Dreamers" (a fiction film that touches on it)... Now, what non-fiction media (book, article, film, photographic collection, etc.) should I consume to have a better understanding of the Parisian Students'/General strike of May, 1968? I'd like to start with the most general, canonical retellings, and then work towards the specific. [English Language or very good translation preferred]

A lot of what I'm coming across seems good... but without a strong nuts-and-bolts foundational understanding of the events, I'm afraid that quite a bit of it is lost on me. I'm from the U.S. and 30 years old... they didn't teach us (or even "touch on") this in school.

Went to Amazon... found a billion books on it, of course, and have no idea which one would be the best overview.

I'm not a historian, but I'm willing to read challenging things, provided it satisfies my "laying the foundation" requirements. Many thanks for your insights.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj to Law & Government (13 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

Chris Marker's documentary Grin Without a Cat is a perfect place to start, if you can find a copy.
posted by goatdog at 7:52 AM on April 29, 2008

BBC Radio 4 is having a 1968 season at the moment. I woke up this morning to a bunch of French people having this impassioned discussion (programme 2 - I'm not sure if it is available outside the UK). I'm not sure who was participating (I was asleep), and I can't remember much of it (I was asleep), but it seemed very interesting. I may have to listen again.
posted by Helga-woo at 7:53 AM on April 29, 2008

Actually it should be noted that the Situationists took more credit for the whole thing than they might have deserved. But insofar as May '68 had an ideological foundation, the Situationists probably represented its clearest expression.

If you can, try to find Michel Foucault's preface to Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus. It does an excellent job of discussing what exactly the events of May did to French intellectual life, the kinds of new preoccupations and viewpoints that it brought.
posted by nasreddin at 7:54 AM on April 29, 2008

Mod note: a few comments removed - if you don't know, you don't have to tell us
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:44 AM on April 29, 2008

I liked 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, by Mark Kurlansky. It talks about Paris but also puts those in the larger context of what was happening all over the world at that time.
posted by charlesv at 9:45 AM on April 29, 2008

Postwar: History of Europe after 1945 has a good section on the strike of 1968, and would be a great place to start to get a general overview of Europe and France at that time.
posted by Vindaloo at 9:58 AM on April 29, 2008

Year of the Barricades, by David Caute is a useful primer.

Google those keywords, and there are some interesting results, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:02 AM on April 29, 2008

Here's the NYT review of Caute's book.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:04 AM on April 29, 2008

I don't know if it's avaiaible in english but Mourir à 30 ans is often considered one of the great documentaries on May 68 and the far left movements in france durng the late 60's.
Its director Romain Goupil was a founding member of the CAL (Comité Action Lycéen), which was one of the key activist organisation from the highschools during 68. The movie was made from film he shot on a super-8 camera at the time.
It's about his personnal history as an activist until the time his best friend commited suicide in 78.
posted by SageLeVoid at 10:22 AM on April 29, 2008

You might enjoy some of the stuff linked to here.
posted by djgh at 2:27 PM on April 29, 2008

Maurice Brinton wrote a great eyewitness account of May 1968.

posted by jammy at 2:45 PM on April 29, 2008

The NYT just talked about the '68 riots today.
posted by lalochezia at 10:17 PM on April 29, 2008

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