Winner of the 2013 Prix Mauvais genres, Les Bas Fonds examines the underworld of 19th and 20th century France. The underworld, a zone outside of the law, populated by beggars, prostitutes, criminals and convicts and where every form of social ill seems to coexist, regularly haunts our imagination. From Batman’s Gotham to Eugène Sue’s Paris, Kalifa explores how journalism, literature, and film have framed our fascination and repulsion with this world of crime, violence, vice, and poverty. Translated by Susan Emanuel, Les Bas Fonds received a French Voices Award in 2016, and will be published in English this spring by Columbia University Press.
Dominique Kalifa is a historian and professor at the University of Paris 1, where he heads the Center of 19th Century History. His work focuses on the history of crime, social control, and mass culture in 19th- and early 20th-century France and Europe. He wrote the first book on the private detective métier, published in 2000 as Naissance de la police privée, and is a member of the Historical Committee of the City of Paris. Since 1990, he has been a literary contributor to Libération.