8 April 2013
Foucault identified certain types of brothel as heterotopia. A passage from Georges Simenon’s Les Fiancailles de M. Hire (1933,) translated by Anna Moschovkis as The Engagement, seems to chime with Faubion’s description of heterotopia as both brighter and darker than other spaces. Here a space of illumination, enchanted and unreal, holding dark secrets:
Men loitered alongside fence, mostly Arabs, all of them looking in the same direction, toward a glow that illuminated a rectangle of side-walk It was the only glimmer of light on the street, which made it seem enchanted. It shone out of a large, unusual house covered entirely in glazed tiles, like the ones at delicatessens. It was white, and glimmered in the moonlight.
A second door opened automatically; with a click he was transported into a fully lit room, into a veritable bath of light – so vivid, so abundant, so radiant that it didn’t seem real.
Photograph by Brassai of the Latin Quarter bordello in Paris called “Suzy”. Brassai says it “was one of the discreet houses that guaranteed the anonymity of its guests. Even priests got in and out without being recognized.”