6 January 2014
I have been reading Louis Aragon’s early work Le Paysan de Paris (1926) translated into English by Simon Watson Taylor as Paris Peasant (1994).
This strange book recounts Aragon’s observations of places and spaces of a soon to be demolished Passage de l’Opéra. These ‘secrets’ of Paris include hairdressing salons, tailors, curious shops and so on but what is striking is how many of the places that he particularly dwells upon relate to Foucault’s account of heterotopia, including: public baths, theatres, brothels and later in the book, gardens and parks. Here he is on Baths:
A strong bond exists in our minds between Baths and sensual pleasure: this immemorial notion contributes to the mystery of these public establishments which many would never venture to visit, so great is the superstition of contagious diseases, and so widespread the conviction that the bathtubs prostituted here are dangerous sirens luring visitors into their traps of leprous enamel and stained tin-plate. Thus, the atmosphere of these temples devoted to a dubious cult is partly that of a brothel, partly that of a place where magic rites are performed.
He evokes enchanted worlds that mark out a certain family of heterotopia that may have not completely disappeared…..