In a previous blog (6th January) I mentioned that I had been reading Louis Aragon’s Paris Peasant [Le Paysan de Paris 1926] and noticed similarities with certain heterotopias outlined by Foucault. What I had forgotten is that Foucault refers directly to Aragon’s text in his initial radio broadcast on heterotopia. He quotes Aragon’s entry into a brothel ‘alone and in absolute gravity’ and then Foucault goes on to describe brothels as places of illusion which contest the rest of what might be called ‘respectable’ space as even more illusionary.
Here is my very brief review of Paris Peasant, which I will include in a forthcoming publication:
Louis Aragon guides us through the Passage de L’Opéra, imaginatively exploring the allure of various establishments found in the covered arcades, including seedy lodging houses, cafés, hairdressing salons, public baths, theatres, washrooms and quaint specialist shops selling such items as handkerchiefs, walking sticks, and exotic stamps. He evokes the ambiguity of these places, their pleasures and secrets: ‘the ephemeral, the ghostly landscape of damnable pleasures and professions’ . Aragon playfully opens up the arcades as diverse laboratories of sensations against what he sees as respectable, inoffensive bourgeoisie sensibilities. The passageway becomes a ‘method’ for loosening inhibitions, revealing both the shadowy and bright secrets that can be found behind its doors. In his stroll through Passage de L’Opéra the public baths and brothel are described in terms of ‘other places’, different worlds secreted in the heart of Paris , and when he moves out to the district of Butts-Chaumont, Aragon’s description and celebration of gardens and parks likewise become zones of mystery and enchantment. Gardens become places of, and for, dreams and mad invention. Parks, particularly at night, become places of sensual delight and lurking danger.
Peter (12 February 2014)