This is an intellectual, artistic, political and moral history of Paris after World War I to 1939, which is one of the most creative decades in history, important in itself and by virtue of its influence on our culture today. It was a period of intense political rethinking and a time of "folly" - irrationality is to be found at the core of political and social attitudes, as well as, more famously, in social life. Cronin tells his story through the lives of those - some of them famous, some obscure - who most typify the age. One of the main artistic movements of the time was surrealism. Writers such as Louis Aragon and Paul Eluard wrote obsessively about the irrationalities and fantasies of sexual love, in cinema Cocteau and Bunuel shocked with their "surprise art", and in painting Fernand Leger translated onto canvas the industrial world of heavy machinery and "mechanical man", whilst Matisse and Picasso followed their own chosen paths. Paris became the centre for jazz, as well as a haven for expatriates such as Joyce, Eliot, Pound and Hemingway, mainly because it was cheap and there was no prohibition. In fashion and literature women such as Coco Chanel and Colette were more influential than ever though they were still denied the vote. In politics the Action Francaise, headed by Charles Maurras, was enlisting the help of reactionary forces in the Catholic Church to forge a new and sinister right-wing nationalism. Paul Valery and Aristide Briand, who was Prime Minister of France eleven times during this period, led a movement in favour of a united Europe, whilst Gide in the Congo and Malraux in Indo-China attacked the injustices of French colonial rule. These are just some of the subjects of this narrative history.