Hermes in Paris
Hermes, the messenger of Zeus, likes to return to Earth now and again. He chooses to do so in Paris at the time of Napoleon III, a time of great frivolity and instability. Here he decides to play the most explosive practical joke in the world's history.
Hermes—God, trickster and mischief-maker—is also the protector of shepherds, travelers' guide, conductor of souls to the underworld, messenger of Zeus, bringer of good luck, and patron of orators, writers, athletes, merchants, and thieves. To indulge his curiosity he visits Earth from time to time looking for opportunities to play practical jokes and stir up the population. He chooses to holiday in Paris at the time of the brilliant but unstable court of Napoleon III—another opportunist, conspiratorial and outwardly amiable—and the beautiful, nervy Empress Eugenie. Hermes finds much to provoke his laughter—and such laughter is dangerous. Under his influence France enjoys a succession of illusions involving the highest in the land, the comfortable middle classes, and the journalists, poets, and intellectuals of Left Bank cafes, and everything flows inexorably towards the most explosive joke that Hermes can devise.
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