a passage from boris groys

 “The flâneur does not require things to come him. Instead he goes to things. In this sense, the flâneur does not destroy the aura of things. Rather, he observes them or, more accurately, he allows them to come into being.”   

a passage from walter benjamin

“The superficial inducement, the exotic, the picturesque has an effect only on the foreigner. To portray a city, a native must have other, deeper motives-motives of one who travels into the past instead of into the distance. A native`s book about his city will always be reated to memories;” 

The Flâneur and the Aesthetic Appropriation of Urban Culture in Mid-19th century

The Flâneur and the Aesthetic Appropriation of Urban Culture in Mid-19th century

...“Such an approach makes apparent the fact that there actually existed two separate, though interconnected, formulaic narratives about flânerie, which have rarely been distinguished from each other. The first is that of the popular flâneur, which emerged on the pages of the mass circulation newspapers and commercial press of the 1840s and came to embody the ideals of a dynamic urban culture and sensibility. The second is what I shall call the avant-garde flâneur, which found its most vivid embodiment in Baudelaire`s critical texts of the 1850s and 1860s.

From these accounts, it becomes clear that the flâneur of the 1840s was hardly an isolated and silent spectator of urban life.

In the flâneur`s  perceptive eyes, what appeared incoherent and meaningless gains focus and visability. The flâneur brings alive and invests with significance the fleeting, everyday occurrences of the city that ordinary people failed to notice.

The unique relationship between the flâneur and the urban environment was invariably characterized by the metaphor of the city as text and the flâneur as reader.

The figure of the urban  flâneur did not completely disappear from the cultural landscape of mid-19th-century Paris, however. By the late 1850s, a new version of the flâneur and a new definition of flânerie re-emerged in the guise of the avant-garde artist. The “painter of modern life”, as Baudelaire called this resurrected flâneur, reaffirmed the idea of modernity as epic experience anchored in a hidden unity at the core of a fragmented civilisation. This epic unity, however, was no longer sought in the social spaces of the empirical city but in the aesthetic spaces of the urban text, recreated by the imagination of the avant-garde poet.
The depiction of the avant-garde flâneur which was to emerge in Baudelaire`s essays of the 1850s was, in many respects, a diminished figure when compared to his popular predecessor of the 1840s. He could no longer claim to embody the totality of the social and cultural values of an emerging urban modernity. He stood in increasing opposition to the new city emerging out of Haussmann`s monumental urban renewal project, which was transforming Paris into a rational, predictable, vidually coherent, but emotionally alienating urban landscape (Clark, 1984). If the popular version of the flâneur had represented the possibility of a synthesis between science and imagination, his avant-garde incarnation was uniquely committed to the defence of imagination against a narrowly scientific conception of modernity.

If the problem in the 1840s had been how to distinguish the true flâneur from the mere idler, by the 1850s it had become how to differentiate the genuine painter of modernity from the mere photographer or the scientific realist.

The popular flâneur had still taken it as axiomatic that Paris, or at any rate Europe, was the center of modernity and that he could not exist anywhere else in the world. The avant-guarde flâneur, as personified by Constantin Guys, no longer did so. He was intentionally depicted as a man of the world and as a great traveller, who felt at home in all parts of the globe.”...
 (Mary Gluck, The Flâneur and the Aesthetic Appropriation of Urban Culture in Mid-19th century, Paris, Theory, Culture and Siciety, 2003 (SAGE, London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi), Vol. 20

the man of the crowd by edgar allan poe (1840)

Ce grand malheur, de ne pouvoir etre seul.

It was well said of a certain German book that "es lasst sich nicht lesen"—it does not permit itself to be read. There are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told. Men die nightly in their beds, wringing the hands of ghostly confessors, and looking them piteously in the eyes—die with despair of heart and convulsion of throat, on account of the hideousness of mysteries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed. Now and then, alas, the conscience of man takes up a burden so heavy in horror that it can be thrown down only into the grave. And thus the essence of all crime is undivulged.

Not long ago, about the closing in of an evening in autumn, I sat at the large bow—window of the D—Coffee-House in London. For some months I had been ill in health, but was now convalescent, and, with returning strength, found myself in one of those happy moods which are so precisely the converse of ennui-moods of the keenest appetency, when the film from the mental vision departs—achlus os prin epeen- and the intellect, electrified, surpasses as greatly its everyday condition, as does the vivid yet candid reason of Leibnitz, the mad and flimsy rhetoric of Gorgias. Merely to breathe was enjoyment; and I derived positive pleasure even from many of the legitimate sources of pain. I felt a calm but inquisitive interest in every thing. With a cigar in my mouth and a newspaper in my lap, I had been amusing myself for the greater part of the afternoon, now in poring over advertisements, now in observing the promiscuous company in the room, and now in peering through the smoky panes into the street.

This latter is one of the principal thoroughfares of the city, and had been very much crowded during the whole day. But, as the darkness came on, the throng momently increased; and, by the time the lamps were well lighted, two dense and continuous tides of population were rushing past the door. At this particular period of the evening I had never before been in a similar situation, and the tumultuous sea of human heads filled me, therefore, with a delicious novelty of emotion. I gave up, at length, all care of things within the hotel, and became absorbed in contemplation of the scene without.

At first my observations took an abstract and generalizing turn. I looked at the passengers in masses, and thought of them in their aggregate relations. Soon, however, I descended to details, and regarded with minute interest the innumerable varieties of figure, dress, air, gait, visage, and expression of countenance.

By far the greater number of those who went by had a satisfied, business-like demeanor, and seemed to be thinking only of making their way through the press. Their brows were knit, and their eyes rolled quickly; when pushed against by fellow-wayfarers they evinced no symptom of impatience, but adjusted their clothes and hurried on. Others, still a numerous class, were restless in their movements, had flushed faces, and talked and gesticulated to themselves, as if feeling in solitude on account of the very denseness of the company around. When impeded in their progress, these people suddenly ceased muttering; but redoubled their gesticulations, and awaited, with an absent and overdone smile upon their lips, the course of the persons impeding them. If jostled, they bowed profusely to the jostlers, and appeared overwhelmed with confusion. There was nothing very distinctive about these two large classes beyond what I have noted. Their habiliments belonged to that order which is pointedly termed the decent. They were undoubtedly noblemen, merchants, attorneys, tradesmen, stock-jobbers—the Eupatrids and the common-places of society—men of leisure and men actively engaged in affairs of their own—conducting business upon their own responsibility. They did not greatly excite my attention.

The tribe of clerks was an obvious one; and here I discerned two remarkable divisions. There were the junior clerks of flash houses- young gentlemen with tight coats, bright boots, well-oiled hair, and supercilious lips. Setting aside a certain dapperness of carriage, which may be termed deskism for want of a better word, the manner of these persons seemed to be an exact facsimile of what had been the perfection of bon ton about twelve or eighteen months before. They wore the castoff graces of the gentry;—and this, I believe, involves the best definition of the class.

The division of the upper clerks of staunch firms, or of the "steady old fellows," it was not possible to mistake. These were known by their coats and pantaloons of black or brown, made to sit comfortably, with white cravats and waistcoats, broad solid-looking shoes, and thick hose or gaiters. They had all slightly bald heads, from which the right ears, long used to pen-holding, had an odd habit of standing off on end. I observed that they always removed or settled their hats with both bands, and wore watches, with short gold chains of a substantial and ancient pattern. Theirs was the affectation of respectability—if indeed there be an affectation so honorable.

There were many individuals of dashing appearance, whom I easily understood as belonging to the race of swell pick-pockets, with which all great cities are infested. I watched these gentry with much inquisitiveness, and found it difficult to imagine how they should ever be mistaken for gentlemen by gentlemen themselves. Their voluminousness of wristband, with an air of excessive frankness, should betray them at once.

The gamblers, of whom I descried not a few, were still more easily recognizable. They wore every variety of dress, from that of the desperate thimble-rig bully, with velvet waistcoat, fancy neckerchief, gilt chains, and filagreed buttons, to that of the scrupulously inornate clergyman, than which nothing could be less liable to suspicion. Still all were distinguished by a certain sodden swarthiness of complexion, a filmy dimness of eye, and pallor and compression of lip. There were two other traits, moreover, by which I could always detect them: a guarded lowness of tone in conversation, and a more than ordinary extension of the thumb in a direction at right angles with the fingers. Very often, in company with these sharpers, I observed an order of men somewhat different in habits, but still birds of a kindred feather. They may be defined as the gentlemen who live by their wits. They seem to prey upon the public in two battalions—that of the dandies and that of the military men. Of the first grade the leading features are long locks and smiles; of the second, frogged coats and frowns.

Descending in the scale of what is termed gentility, I found darker and deeper themes for speculation. I saw Jew pedlars, with hawk eyes flashing from countenances whose every other feature wore only an expression of abject humility; sturdy professional street beggars scowling upon mendicants of a better stamp, whom despair alone had driven forth into the night for charity; feeble and ghastly invalids, upon whom death had placed a sure hand, and who sidled and tottered through the mob, looking every one beseechingly in the face, as if in search of some chance consolation, some lost hope; modest young girls returning from long and late labor to a cheerless home, and shrinking more tearfully than indignantly from the glances of ruffians, whose direct contact, even, could not be avoided; women of the town of all kinds and of all ages—the unequivocal beauty in the prime of her womanhood, putting one in mind of the statue in Lucian, with the surface of Parian marble, and the interior filled with filth—the loathsome and utterly lost leper in rags—the wrinkled, bejewelled, and paint-begrimed beldame, making a last effort at youth—the mere child of immature form, yet, from long association, an adept in the dreadful coquetries of her trade, and burning with a rabid ambition to be ranked the equal of her elders in vice; drunkards innumerable and indescribable—some in shreds and patches, reeling, inarticulate, with bruised visage and lack-lustre eyes—some in whole although filthy garments, with a slightly unsteady swagger, thick sensual lips, and hearty-looking rubicund faces—others clothed in materials which had once been good, and which even now were scrupulously well brushed-men who walked with a more than naturally firm and springy step, but whose countenances were fearfully pale, and whose eyes were hideously wild and red; and who clutched with quivering fingers, as they strode through the crowd, at every object which came within their reach; beside these, pic-men, porters, coal-heavers, sweeps; organ-grinders, monkey-exhibitors, and ballad-mongers, those who vended with those who sang; ragged artizans and exhausted laborers of every description, and all full of a noisy and inordinate vivacity which jarred discordantly upon the ear, and gave an aching sensation to the eye.

As the night deepened, so deepened to me the interest of the scene; for not only did the general character of the crowd materially alter (its gentler features retiring in the gradual withdrawal of the more orderly portion of the people, and its harsher ones coming out into bolder relief, as the late hour brought forth every species of infamy from its den), but the rays of the gas-lamps, feeble at first in their struggle with the dying day, had now at length gained ascendancy, and threw over every thing a fitful and garish lustre. All was dark yet splendid—as that ebony to which has been likened the style of Tertullian.

The wild effects of the light enchained me to an examination of individual faces; and although the rapidity with which the world of light flitted before the window prevented me from casting more than a glance upon each visage, still it seemed that, in my then peculiar mental state, I could frequently read, even in that brief interval of a glance, the history of long years.

With my brow to the glass, I was thus occupied in scrutinizing the mob, when suddenly there came into view a countenance (that of a decrepid old man, some sixty-five or seventy years of age)—a countenance which at once arrested and absorbed my whole attention, on account of the absolute idiosyncrasy of its expression. Any thing even remotely resembling that expression I had never seen before. I well remember that my first thought, upon beholding it, was that Retszch, had he viewed it, would have greatly preferred it to his own pictural incarnations of the fiend. As I endeavored, during the brief minute of my original survey, to form some analysis of the meaning conveyed, there arose confusedly and paradoxically within my mind, the ideas of vast mental power, of caution, of penuriousness, of avarice, of coolness, of malice, of blood-thirstiness, of triumph, of merriment, of excessive terror, of intense—of supreme despair. I felt singularly aroused, startled, fascinated. "How wild a history," I said to myself, "is written within that bosom!" Then came a craving desire to keep the man in view—to know more of him. Hurriedly putting on all overcoat, and seizing my hat and cane, I made my way into the street, and pushed through the crowd in the direction which I had seen him take; for he had already disappeared. With some little difficulty I at length came within sight of him, approached, and followed him closely, yet cautiously, so as not to attract his attention.

I had now a good opportunity of examining his person. He was short in stature, very thin, and apparently very feeble. His clothes, generally, were filthy and ragged; but as he came, now and then, within the strong glare of a lamp, I perceived that his linen, although dirty, was of beautiful texture; and my vision deceived me, or, through a rent in a closely buttoned and evidently second-handed roquelaire which enveloped him, I caught a glimpse both of a diamond and of a dagger. These observations heightened my curiosity, and I resolved to follow the stranger whithersoever he should go.

It was now fully night-fall, and a thick humid fog hung over the city, soon ending in a settled and heavy rain. This change of weather had an odd effect upon the crowd, the whole of which was at once put into new commotion, and overshadowed by a world of umbrellas. The waver, the jostle, and the hum increased in a tenfold degree. For my own part I did not much regard the rain—the lurking of an old fever in my system rendering the moisture somewhat too dangerously pleasant. Tying a handkerchief about my mouth, I kept on. For half an hour the old man held his way with difficulty along the great thoroughfare; and I here walked close at his elbow through fear of losing sight of him. Never once turning his head to look back, he did not observe me. By and by he passed into a cross street, which, although densely filled with people, was not quite so much thronged as the main one he had quitted. Here a change in his demeanor became evident. He walked more slowly and with less object than before- more hesitatingly. He crossed and re-crossed the way repeatedly, without apparent aim; and the press was still so thick, that, at every such movement, I was obliged to follow him closely. The street was a narrow and long one, and his course lay within it for nearly an hour, during which the passengers had gradually diminished to about that number which is ordinarily seen at noon in Broadway near the park—so vast a difference is there between a London populace and that of the most frequented American city. A second turn brought us into a square, brilliantly lighted, and overflowing with life. The old manner of the stranger reappeared. His chin fell upon his breast, while his eyes rolled wildly from under his knit brows, in every direction, upon those who hemmed him in. He urged his way steadily and perseveringly. I was surprised, however, to find, upon his having made the circuit of the square, that he turned and retraced his steps. Still more was I astonished to see him repeat the same walk several times—once nearly detecting me as he came around with a sudden movement.

In this exercise he spent another hour, at the end of which we met with far less interruption from passengers than at first. The rain fell fast, the air grew cool; and the people were retiring to their homes. With a gesture of impatience, the wanderer passed into a by-street comparatively deserted. Down this, some quarter of a mile long, he rushed with an activity I could not have dreamed of seeing in one so aged, and which put me to much trouble in pursuit. A few minutes brought us to a large and busy bazaar, with the localities of which the stranger appeared well acquainted, and where his original demeanor again became apparent, as he forced his way to and fro, without aim, among the host of buyers and sellers.

During the hour and a half, or thereabouts, which we passed in this place, it required much caution on my part to keep him within reach without attracting his observation. Luckily I wore a pair of caoutchouc overshoes, and could move about in perfect silence. At no moment did he see that I watched him. He entered shop after shop, priced nothing, spoke no word, and looked at all objects with a wild and vacant stare. I was now utterly amazed at his behavior, and firmly resolved that we should not part until I had satisfied myself in some measure respecting him.

A loud-toned clock struck eleven, and the company were fast deserting the bazaar. A shop-keeper, in putting up a shutter, jostled the old man, and at the instant I saw a strong shudder come over his frame. He hurried into the street, looked anxiously around him for an instant, and then ran with incredible swiftness through many crooked and peopleless lanes, until we emerged once more upon the great thoroughfare whence we had started—the street of the D—Hotel. It no longer wore, however, the same aspect. It was still brilliant with gas; but the rain fell fiercely, and there were few persons to be seen. The stranger grew pale. He walked moodily some paces up the once populous avenue, then, with a heavy sigh, turned in the direction of the river, and, plunging through a great variety of devious ways, came out, at length, in view of one of the principal theatres. It was about being closed, and the audience were thronging from the doors. I saw the old man gasp as if for breath while he threw himself amid the crowd; but I thought that the intense agony of his countenance had, in some measure, abated. His head again fell upon his breast; he appeared as I had seen him at first. I observed that he now took the course in which had gone the greater number of the audience but, upon the whole, I was at a loss to comprehend the waywardness of his actions.

As he proceeded, the company grew more scattered, and his old uneasiness and vacillation were resumed. For some time he followed closely a party of some ten or twelve roisterers; but from this number one by one dropped off, until three only remained together, in a narrow and gloomy lane, little frequented. The stranger paused, and, for a moment, seemed lost in thought; then, with every mark of agitation, pursued rapidly a route which brought us to the verge of the city, amid regions very different from those we had hitherto traversed. It was the most noisome quarter of London, where every thing wore the worst impress of the most deplorable poverty, and of the most desperate crime. By the dim light of an accidental lamp, tall, antique, worm-eaten, wooden tenements were seen tottering to their fall, in directions so many and capricious, that scarce the semblance of a passage was discernible between them. The paving-stones lay at random, displaced from their beds by the rankly-growing grass. Horrible filth festered in the dammed-up gutters. The whole atmosphere teemed with desolation. Yet, as we proceeded, the sounds of human life revived by sure degrees, and at length large bands of the most abandoned of a London populace were seen reeling to and fro. The spirits of the old man again flickered up, as a lamp which is near its death-hour. Once more he strode onward with elastic tread. Suddenly a corner was turned, a blaze of light burst upon our sight, and we stood before one of the huge suburban temples of Intemperance—one of the palaces of the fiend, Gin.

It was now nearly daybreak; but a number of wretched inebriates still pressed in and out of the flaunting entrance. With a half shriek of joy the old man forced a passage within, resumed at once his original bearing, and stalked backward and forward, without apparent object, among the throng. He had not been thus long occupied, however, before a rush to the doors gave token that the host was closing them for the night. It was something even more intense than despair that I then observed upon the countenance of the singular being whom I had watched so pertinaciously. Yet he did not hesitate in his career, but, with a mad energy, retraced his steps at once, to the heart of the mighty London. Long and swiftly he fled, while I followed him in the wildest amazement, resolute not to abandon a scrutiny in which I now felt an interest all-absorbing. The sun arose while we proceeded, and, when we had once again reached that most thronged mart of the populous town, the street of the D—Hotel, it presented an appearance of human bustle and activity scarcely inferior to what I had seen on the evening before. And here, long, amid the momently increasing confusion, did I persist in my pursuit of the stranger. But, as usual, he walked to and fro, and during the day did not pass from out the turmoil of that street. And, as the shades of the second evening came on, I grew wearied unto death, and, stopping fully in front of the wanderer, gazed at him steadfastly in the face. He noticed me not, but resumed his solemn walk, while I, ceasing to follow, remained absorbed in contemplation. "The old man," I said at length, "is the type and the genius of deep crime. He refuses to be alone. He is the man of the crowd. It will be in vain to follow, for I shall learn no more of him, nor of his deeds. The worst heart of the world is a grosser book than the 'Hortulus Animae,'1 and perhaps it is but one of the great mercies of God that "es lasst sich nicht lesen."

[1] The "Hortulus Animae cum Oratiunculis Aliquibus Superadditis" of Grunninger.

...from Cornelia Otis Skinner's, Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals (1962)

There is no English equivalent for the French word flâneur. Cassell's dictionary defines flâneur as a stroller, saunterer, drifter but none of these terms seems quite accurate. There is no English equivalent for the term, just as there is no Anglo-Saxon counterpart of that essentially Gallic individual, the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothing, including his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city.

...from Susan Sontag's essay, On Photography (1977)

The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world 'picturesque.'

Michel Foucault: Heterotopias

This text, entitled "Des Espace Autres," and published by the French journal Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité in October, 1984, was the basis of a lecture given by Michel Foucault in March 1967. Although not reviewed for publication by the author and thus not part of the official corpus of his work, the manuscript was released into the public domain for an exhibition in Berlin shortly before Michel Foucault's death. Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec.

The great obsession of the nineteenth century was, as we know, history: with its themes of development and of suspension, of crisis, and cycle, themes of the ever-accumulating past, with its great preponderance of dead men and the menacing glaciation of the world. The nineteenth century found its essential mythological resources in the second principle of thermaldynamics- The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at a moment. I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein. One could perhaps say that certain ideological conflicts animating present-day polemics oppose the pious descendents of time and the determined inhabitants of space. Structuralism, or at least which is grouped under this slightly too general name, is the effort to establish, between elements that could have been connected on a temporal axis, an ensemble of relations that makes them appear as juxtaposed, set off against one another, implicated by each other-that makes them appear, in short, as a sort of configuration. Actually, structuralism does not entail denial of time; it does involve a certain manner of dealing with what we call time and what we call history.

Yet it is necessary to notice that the space which today appears to form the horizon of our concerns, our theory, our systems, is not an innovation; space itself has a history in Western experience, and it is not possible to disregard the fatal intersection of time with space. One could say, by way of retracing this history of space very roughly, that in the Middle Ages there was a hierarchic ensemble of places: sacred places and profane plates: protected places and open, exposed places: urban places and rural places (all these concern the real life of men). In cosmological theory, there were the supercelestial places as opposed to the celestial, and the celestial place was in its turn opposed to the terrestrial place. There were places where things had been put because they had been violently displaced, and then on the contrary places where things found their natural ground and stability. It was this complete hierarchy, this opposition, this intersection of places that constituted what could very roughly be called medieval space: the space of emplacement.

This space of emplacement was opened up by Galileo. For the real scandal of Galileo's work lay not so much in his discovery, or rediscovery, that the earth revolved around the sun, but in his constitution of an infinite, and infinitely open space. In such a space the place of the Middle Ages turned out to be dissolved. as it were; a thing's place was no longer anything but a point in its movement, just as the stability of a thing was only its movement indefinitely slowed down. In other words, starting with Galileo and the seventeenth century, extension was substituted for localization.

Today the site has been substituted for extension which itself had replaced emplacement. The site is defined by relations of proximity between points or elements; formally, we can describe these relations as series, trees, or grids. Moreover, the importance of the site as a problem in contemporary technical work is well known: the storage of data or of the intermediate results of a calculation in the memory of a machine, the circulation of discrete elements with a random output (automobile traffic is a simple case, or indeed the sounds on a telephone line); the identification of marked or coded elements inside a set that may be randomly distributed, or may be arranged according to single or to multiple classifications.

In a still more concrete manner, the problem of siting or placement arises for mankind in terms of demography. This problem of the human site or living space is not simply that of knowing whether there will be enough space for men in the world -a problem that is certainly quite important - but also that of knowing what relations of propinquity, what type of storage, circulation, marking, and classification of human elements should be adopted in a given situation in order to achieve a given end. Our epoch is one in which space takes for us the form of relations among sites.

In any case I believe that the anxiety of our era has to do fundamentally with space, no doubt a great deal more than with time. Time probably appears to us only as one of the various distributive operations that are possible for the elements that are spread out in space,

Now, despite all the techniques for appropriating space, despite the whole network of knowledge that enables us to delimit or to formalize it, contemporary space is perhaps still not entirely desanctified (apparently unlike time, it would seem, which was detached from the sacred in the nineteenth century). To be sure a certain theoretical desanctification of space (the one signaled by Galileo's work) has occurred, but we may still not have reached the point of a practical desanctification of space. And perhaps our life is still governed by a certain number of oppositions that remain inviolable, that our institutions and practices have not yet dared to break down. These are oppositions that we regard as simple givens: for example between private space and public space, between family space and social space, between cultural space and useful space, between the space of leisure and that of work. All these are still nurtured by the hidden presence of the sacred.

Bachelard's monumental work and the descriptions of phenomenologists have taught us that we do not live in a homogeneous and empty space, but on the contrary in a space thoroughly imbued with quantities and perhaps thoroughly fantasmatic as well. The space of our primary perception, the space of our dreams and that of our passions hold within themselves qualities that seem intrinsic: there is a light, ethereal, transparent space, or again a dark, rough, encumbered space; a space from above, of summits, or on the contrary a space from below of mud; or again a space that can be flowing like sparkling water, or space that is fixed, congealed, like stone or crystal. Yet these analyses, while fundamental for reflection in our time, primarily concern internal space. I should like to speak now of external space.

The space in which we live, which draws us out of ourselves, in which the erosion of our lives. our time and our history occurs, the space that claws and gnaws at us, is also, in itself, a heterogeneous space. In other words, we do not live in a kind of void, inside of which we could place individuals and things. We do not live inside a void that could be colored with diverse shades of light, we live inside a set of relations that delineates sites which are irreducible to one another and absolutely not superimposable on one another.

Of course one might attempt to describe these different sites by looking for the set of relations by which a given site can be defined. For example, describing the set of relations that define the sites of transportation, streets, trains (a train is an extraordinary bundle of relations because it is something through which one goes, it is also something by means of which one can go from one point to another, and then it is also something that goes by). One could describe, via the cluster of relations that allows them to be defined, the sites of temporary relaxation -cafes, cinemas, beaches. Likewise one could describe, via its network of relations, the closed or semi-closed sites of rest - the house, the bedroom, the bed, el cetera. But among all these sites, I am interested in certain ones that have the curious property of being in relation with all the other sites, but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invent the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror, or reflect. These spaces, as it were, which are linked with all the others, which however contradict all the other sites, are of two main types.


First there are the utopias. Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society. They present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces.

There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places - places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society - which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias. I believe that between utopias and these quite other sites, these heterotopias, there might be a sort of mixed, joint experience, which would be the mirror. The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror. But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy. From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am. The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.

As for the heterotopias as such, how can they be described? What meaning do they have? We might imagine a sort of systematic description - I do not say a science because the term is too galvanized now -that would, in a given society, take as its object the study, analysis, description, and 'reading' (as some like to say nowadays) of these different spaces, of these other places. As a sort of simultaneously mythic and real contestation of the space in which we live, this description could be called heterotopology.

Its first principle is that there is probably not a single culture in the world that fails to constitute heterotopias. That is a constant of every human group. But the heterotopias obviously take quite varied forms, and perhaps no one absolutely universal form of heterotopia would be found. We can however class them in two main categories.

In the so-called primitive societies, there is a certain form of heterotopia that I would call crisis heterotopias, i.e., there are privileged or sacred or forbidden places, reserved for individuals who are, in relation to society and to the human environment in which they live, in a state of crisis: adolescents, menstruating women, pregnant women. the elderly, etc. In out society, these crisis heterotopias are persistently disappearing, though a few remnants can still be found. For example, the boarding school, in its nineteenth-century form, or military service for young men, have certainly played such a role, as the first manifestations of sexual virility were in fact supposed to take place "elsewhere" than at home. For girls, there was, until the middle of the twentieth century, a tradition called the "honeymoon trip" which was an ancestral theme. The young woman's deflowering could take place "nowhere" and, at the moment of its occurrence the train or honeymoon hotel was indeed the place of this nowhere, this heterotopia without geographical markers.

But these heterotopias of crisis are disappearing today and are being replaced, I believe, by what we might call heterotopias of deviation: those in which individuals whose behavior is deviant in relation to the required mean or norm are placed. Cases of this are rest homes and psychiatric hospitals, and of course prisons, and one should perhaps add retirement homes that are, as it were, on the borderline between the heterotopia of crisis and the heterotopia of deviation since, after all, old age is a crisis, but is also a deviation since in our society where leisure is the rule, idleness is a sort of deviation.

The second principle of this description of heterotopias is that a society, as its history unfolds, can make an existing heterotopia function in a very different fashion; for each heterotopia has a precise and determined function within a society and the same heterotopia can, according to the synchrony of the culture in which it occurs, have one function or another.

As an example I shall take the strange heterotopia of the cemetery. The cemetery is certainly a place unlike ordinary cultural spaces. It is a space that is however connected with all the sites of the city, state or society or village, etc., since each individual, each family has relatives in the cemetery. In western culture the cemetery has practically always existed. But it has undergone important changes. Until the end of the eighteenth century, the cemetery was placed at the heart of the city, next to the church. In it there was a hierarchy of possible tombs. There was the charnel house in which bodies lost the last traces of individuality, there were a few individual tombs and then there were the tombs inside the church. These latter tombs were themselves of two types, either simply tombstones with an inscription, or mausoleums with statues. This cemetery housed inside the sacred space of the church has taken on a quite different cast in modern civilizations, and curiously, it is in a time when civilization has become 'atheistic,' as one says very crudely, that western culture has established what is termed the cult of the dead.

Basically it was quite natural that, in a time of real belief in the resurrection of bodies and the immortality of the soul, overriding importance was not accorded to the body's remains. On the contrary, from the moment when people are no longer sure that they have a soul or that the body will regain life, it is perhaps necessary to give much more attention to the dead body, which is ultimately the only trace of our existence in the world and in language. In any case, it is from the beginning of the nineteenth century that everyone has a right to her or his own little box for her or his own little personal decay, but on the other hand, it is only from that start of the nineteenth century that cemeteries began to be located at the outside border of cities. In correlation with the individualization of death and the bourgeois appropriation of the cemetery, there arises an obsession with death as an 'illness.' The dead, it is supposed, bring illnesses to the living, and it is the presence and proximity of the dead right beside the houses, next to the church, almost in the middle of the street, it is this proximity that propagates death itself. This major theme of illness spread by the contagion in the cemeteries persisted until the end of the eighteenth century, until, during the nineteenth century, the shift of cemeteries toward the suburbs was initiated. The cemeteries then came to constitute, no longer the sacred and immortal heart of the city, but the other city, where each family possesses its dark resting place.

Third principle. The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible. Thus it is that the theater brings onto the rectangle of the stage, one after the other, a whole series of places that are foreign to one another; thus it is that the cinema is a very odd rectangular room, at the end of which, on a two-dimensional screen, one sees the projection of a three-dimensional space, but perhaps the oldest example of these heterotopias that take the form of contradictory sites is the garden. We must not forget that in the Orient the garden, an astonishing creation that is now a thousand years old, had very deep and seemingly superimposed meanings. The traditional garden of the Persians was a sacred space that was supposed to bring together inside its rectangle four parts representing the four parts of the world, with a space still more sacred than the others that were like an umbilicus, the navel of the world at its center (the basin and water fountain were there); and all the vegetation of the garden was supposed to come together in this space, in this sort of microcosm. As for carpets, they were originally reproductions of gardens (the garden is a rug onto which the whole world comes to enact its symbolic perfection, and the rug is a sort of garden that can move across space). The garden is the smallest parcel of the world and then it is the totality of the world. The garden has been a sort of happy, universalizing heterotopia since the beginnings of antiquity (our modern zoological gardens spring from that source).

Fourth principle. Heterotopias are most often linked to slices in time - which is to say that they open onto what might be termed, for the sake of symmetry, heterochronies. The heterotopia begins to function at full capacity when men arrive at a sort of absolute break with their traditional time. This situation shows us that the cemetery is indeed a highly heterotopic place since, for the individual, the cemetery begins with this strange heterochrony, the loss of life, and with this quasi-eternity in which her permanent lot is dissolution and disappearance.

From a general standpoint, in a society like ours heterotopias and heterochronies are structured and distributed in a relatively complex fashion. First of all, there are heterotopias of indefinitely accumulating time, for example museums and libraries, Museums and libraries have become heterotopias in which time never stops building up and topping its own summit, whereas in the seventeenth century, even at the end of the century, museums and libraries were the expression of an individual choice. By contrast, the idea of accumulating everything, of establishing a sort of general archive, the will to enclose in one place all times, all epochs, all forms, all tastes, the idea of constituting a place of all times that is itself outside of time and inaccessible to its ravages, the project of organizing in this way a sort of perpetual and indefinite accumulation of time in an immobile place, this whole idea belongs to our modernity. The museum and the library are heterotopias that are proper to western culture of the nineteenth century.

Opposite these heterotopias that are linked to the accumulation of time, there are those linked, on the contrary, to time in its most flowing, transitory, precarious aspect, to time in the mode of the festival. These heterotopias are not oriented toward the eternal, they are rather absolutely temporal [chroniques]. Such, for example, are the fairgrounds, these' marvelous empty sites on the outskirts of cities that teem once or twice a year with stands, displays, heteroclite objects, wrestlers, snakewomen, fortune-tellers, and so forth. Quite recently, a new kind of temporal heterotopia has been invented: vacation villages, such as those Polynesian villages that offer a compact three weeks of primitive and eternal nudity to the inhabitants of the cities. You see, moreover, that through the two forms of heterotopias that come together here, the heterotopia of the festival and that of the eternity of accumulating time, the huts of Djerba are in a sense relatives of libraries and museums. for the rediscovery of Polynesian life abolishes time; yet the experience is just as much the,, rediscovery of time, it is as if the entire history of humanity reaching back to its origin were accessible in a sort of immediate knowledge,

Fifth principle. Heterotopias always presuppose a system of opening and closing that both isolates them and makes them penetrable. In general, the heterotopic site is not freely accessible like a public place. Either the entry is compulsory, as in the case of entering a barracks or a prison, or else the individual has to submit to rites and purifications. To get in one must have a certain permission and make certain gestures. Moreover, there are even heterotopias that are entirely consecrated to these activities of purification -purification that is partly religious and partly hygienic, such as the hammin of the Moslems, or else purification that appears to be purely hygienic, as in Scandinavian saunas.

There are others, on the contrary, that seem to be pure and simple openings, but that generally hide curious exclusions. Everyone can enter into thew heterotopic sites, but in fact that is only an illusion- we think we enter where we are, by the very fact that we enter, excluded. I am thinking for example, of the famous bedrooms that existed on the great farms of Brazil and elsewhere in South America. The entry door did not lead into the central room where the family lived, and every individual or traveler who came by had the right to ope this door, to enter into the bedroom and to sleep there for a night. Now these bedrooms were such that the individual who went into them never had access to the family's quarter the visitor was absolutely the guest in transit, was not really the invited guest. This type of heterotopia, which has practically disappeared from our civilizations, could perhaps be found in the famous American motel rooms where a man goes with his car and his mistress and where illicit sex is both absolutely sheltered and absolutely hidden, kept isolated without however being allowed out in the open.

Sixth principle. The last trait of heterotopias is that they have a function in relation to all the space that remains. This function unfolds between two extreme poles. Either their role is to create a space of illusion that exposes every real space, all the sites inside of which human life is partitioned, as still more illusory (perhaps that is the role that was played by those famous brothels of which we are now deprived). Or else, on the contrary, their role is to create a space that is other, another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is messy, ill constructed, and jumbled. This latter type would be the heterotopia, not of illusion, but of compensation, and I wonder if certain colonies have not functioned somewhat in this manner. In certain cases, they have played, on the level of the general organization of terrestrial space, the role of heterotopias. I am thinking, for example, of the first wave of colonization in the seventeenth century, of the Puritan societies that the English had founded in America and that were absolutely perfect other places. I am also thinking of those extraordinary Jesuit colonies that were founded in South America: marvelous, absolutely regulated colonies in which human perfection was effectively achieved. The Jesuits of Paraguay established colonies in which existence was regulated at every turn. The village was laid out according to a rigorous plan around a rectangular place at the foot of which was the church; on one side, there was the school; on the other, the cemetery-, and then, in front of the church, an avenue set out that another crossed at fight angles; each family had its little cabin along these two axes and thus the sign of Christ was exactly reproduced. Christianity marked the space and geography of the American world with its fundamental sign.

The daily life of individuals was regulated, not by the whistle, but by the bell. Everyone was awakened at the same time, everyone began work at the same time; meals were at noon and five o'clock-, then came bedtime, and at midnight came what was called the marital wake-up, that is, at the chime of the churchbell, each person carried out her/his duty.

Brothels and colonies are two extreme types of heterotopia, and if we think, after all, that the boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea and that, from port to port, from tack to tack, from brothel to brothel, it goes as far as the colonies in search of the most precious treasures they conceal in their gardens, you will understand why the boat has not only been for our civilization, from the sixteenth century until the present, the great instrument of economic development (I have not been speaking of that today), but has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of the imagination. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.

...from robert walser's "spaziergang" (extract in german)

Spazieren muss ich unbedingt, damit ich mich belebe und die Verbindung mit der Welt aufrechterhalte,ohne deren Empfindung ich weder einen halben Buchstaben mehr schreiben,noch ein Gedicht in Vers oder Prosa hervorbringen könnte.Ohne Spazieren wäre tot,und meinen Beruf,den ich leidenschaftlich liebe,hätte ich längst preisgeben müssen.

...from franz kafka's journey diaries (original in french)

moi je flâne

qu'on m'approuve ou me conamne

je vois tout

je suis partout

but i stroll

you like it or not

i see everything

i am everywhere

ich aber flaniere

man mag's oder nicht

ich sehe alles

bin überall

μα 'γω πλανιεμαι

θελοντας και μη

βλεπω τα παντα

ειμαι παντου

a poetic example from "fleurs du mal" (1861) and two translation-attempts in english and german

À une passante

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.
Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,
Une femme passa, d'une main fastueuse
Soulevant, balançant le feston et l'ourlet;

Agile et noble, avec sa jambe de statue.
Moi, je buvais, crispé comme un extravagant,
Dans son oeil, ciel livide où germe l'ouragan,
La douceur qui fascine et le plaisir qui tue.

Un éclair... puis la nuit! — Fugitive beauté
Dont le regard m'a fait soudainement renaître,
Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l'éternité?

Ailleurs, bien loin d'ici! trop tard! jamais peut-être!
Car j'ignore où tu fuis, tu ne sais où je vais,
Ô toi que j'eusse aimée, ô toi qui le savais!

To a Passer-By

The street about me roared with a deafening sound.
Tall, slender, in heavy mourning, majestic grief,
A woman passed, with a glittering hand
Raising, swinging the hem and flounces of her skirt;

Agile and graceful, her leg was like a statue's.
Tense as in a delirium, I drank
From her eyes, pale sky where tempests germinate,
The sweetness that enthralls and the pleasure that kills.

A lightning flash... then night! Fleeting beauty
By whose glance I was suddenly reborn,
Will I see you no more before eternity?

Elsewhere, far, far from here! too late! never perhaps!
For I know not where you fled, you know not where I go,
O you whom I would have loved, O you who knew it!

[William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)]

Einer Vorübergehenden

Die Strasse heult und rasselt fieberhaft.
Da schreitet zwischen Lärm und Gassenhauer
Ein schlankes Weib in majestätischer Trauer,
Mit stolzer Hand des Kleides Saum gerafft;

Geschmeidig, zart, das Bein schlank wie gemeisselt.
Aus ihrem Blick, drin Himmel fahl und starr
Und Stürme ruhn, saug' ich, ein kranker Narr,
Leid, das berauscht, Lust, die zu Tode geisselt.

Ein Blitz ... dann Nacht! – O schöne, flüchtige Frau,
Aus deinem Blick strömt Kraft und Leben nieder.
Ob ich dich erst dort drüben wiederschau?

Verändert, fern! zu spät! ach niemals wieder!
Fremd mir dein Pfad, mein Weg dir unbekannt, –
Dich hätte ich geliebt, dich, die's erkannt!

[Therese Robinson, Die Blumen des Bösen (Georg Müller Verlag, München, 1925)]

extracts from Rainer Maria Rilke's "Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge" (The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge) (1910) in german

So, also hierher kommen die Leute, um zu leben, ich wuerde eher meinen,
es stuerbe sich hier. Ich bin ausgewesen. Ich habe gesehen:
Hospitaeler. Ich habe einen Menschen gesehen, welcher schwankte und
umsank. Die Leute versammelten sich um ihn, das ersparte mir den Rest.
Ich habe eine schwangere Frau gesehen. Sie schob sich schwer an
einer hohen, warmen Mauer entlang, nach der sie manchmal tastete, wie
um sich zu ueberzeugen, ob sie noch da sei. Ja, sie war noch da.
Dahinter? Ich suchte auf meinem Plan: Maison d'Accouchement. Gut.
Man wird sie entbinden--man kann das. Weiter, rue Saint-Jacques, ein
grosses Gebaeude mit einer Kuppel. Der Plan gab an Val-de-grace,
Hospital militaire. Das brauchte ich eigentlich nicht zu wissen, aber
es schadet nicht. Die Gasse begann von allen Seiten zu riechen. Es
roch, soviel sich unterscheiden liess, nach Jodoform, nach dem Fett von
pommes frites, nach Angst. Alle Staedte riechen im Sommer. Dann habe
ich ein eigentuemlich starblindes Haus gesehen, es war im Plan nicht zu
finden, aber ueber der Tuer stand noch ziemlich leserlich: Asyle de nuit.
Neben dem Eingang waren die Preise. Ich habe sie gelesen. Es war
nicht teuer.

Und sonst? ein Kind in einem stehenden Kinderwagen: es war dick,
gruenlich und hatte einen deutlichen Ausschlag auf der Stirn. Er
heilte offenbar ab und tat nicht weh. Das Kind schlief, der Mund war
offen, atmete Jodoform, pommes frites, Angst. Das war nun mal so.
Die Hauptsache war, dass man lebte. Das war die Hauptsache.


Ich lerne sehen. Ich weiss nicht, woran es liegt, es geht alles tiefer
in mich ein und bleibt nicht an der Stelle stehen, wo es sonst immer
zu Ende war. Ich habe ein Inneres, von dem ich nicht wusste. Alles
geht jetzt dorthin. Ich weiss nicht, was dort geschieht.


Und man hat niemand und nichts und faehrt in der Welt herum mit einem
Koffer und mit einer Buecherkiste und eigentlich ohne Neugierde. Was
fuer ein Leben ist das eigentlich: ohne Haus, ohne ererbte Dinge, ohne
Hunde. Haette man doch wenigstens seine Erinnerungen. Aber wer hat
die? Waere die Kindheit da, sie ist wie vergraben. Vielleicht muss man
alt sein, um an das alles heranreichen zu koennen. Ich denke es mir
gut, alt zu sein.

Heute war ein schoener, herbstlicher Morgen. Ich ging durch die
Tuilerien. Alles, was gegen Osten lag, vor der Sonne, blendete. Das
Angeschienene war vom Nebel verhangen wie von einem lichtgrauen
Vorhang. Grau im Grauen sonnten sich die Statuen in den noch nicht
enthuellten Gaerten. Einzelne Blumen in den langen Beeten standen auf
und sagten: Rot, mit einer erschrockenen Stimme. Dann kam ein sehr
grosser, schlanker Mann um die Ecke, von den Champs-Elysees her; er
trug eine Kruecke, aber nicht mehr unter die Schulter geschoben,--er
hielt sie vor sich her, leicht, und von Zeit zu Zeit stellte er sie
fest und laut auf wie einen Heroldstab. Er konnte ein Laecheln der
Freude nicht unterdruecken und laechelte, an allem vorbei, der Sonne,
den Baeumen zu. Sein Schritt war schuechtern wie der eines Kindes, aber
ungewoehnlich leicht, voll von Erinnerung an frueheres Gehen.


Dass mein Ofen wieder einmal geraucht hat und ich ausgehen musste, das
ist doch wirklich kein Unglueck. Dass ich mich matt und erkaeltet fuehle,
hat nichts zu bedeuten. Dass ich den ganzen Tag in den Gassen
umhergelaufen bin, ist meine eigene Schuld. Ich haette ebensogut im
Louvre sitzen koennen. Oder nein, das haette ich nicht. Dort sind
gewisse Leute, die sich waermen wollen. Sie sitzen auf den Samtbaenken,
und ihre Fuesse stehen wie grosse leere Stiefel nebeneinander auf den
Gittern der Heizungen. Es sind aeusserst bescheidene Maenner, die
dankbar sind, wenn die Diener in den dunklen Uniformen mit den vielen
Orden sie dulden. Aber wenn ich eintrete, so grinsen sie. Grinsen
und nicken ein wenig. Und dann, wenn ich vor den Bildern hin und her
gehe, behalten sie mich im Auge, immer im Auge, immer in diesem
umgeruehrten, zusammengeflossenen Auge. Es war also gut, dass ich nicht
ins Louvre gegangen bin. Ich bin immer unterwegs gewesen. Weiss der
Himmel in wie vielen Staedten, Stadtteilen, Friedhoefen, Bruecken und
Durchgaengen. Irgendwo habe ich einen Mann gesehen, der einen
Gemuesewagen vor sich herschob. Er schrie: Choufleur, Chou-fleur, das
fleur mit eigentuemlich truebem eu. Neben ihm ging eine eckige,
haessliche Frau, die ihn von Zeit zu Zeit anstiess. Und wenn sie ihn
anstiess, so schrie er. Manchmal schrie er auch von selbst, aber dann
war es umsonst gewesen, und er musste gleich darauf wieder schreien,
weil man vor einem Hause war, welches kaufte. Habe ich schon gesagt,
dass er blind war? Nein? Also er war blind. Er war blind und schrie.
Ich faelsche, wenn ich das sage, ich unterschlage den Wagen, den er
schob, ich tue, als haette ich nicht bemerkt, dass er Blumenkohl ausrief.
Aber ist das wesentlich? Und wenn es auch wesentlich waere, kommt es
nicht darauf an, was die ganze Sache fuer mich gewesen ist? Ich habe
einen alten Mann gesehen, der blind war und schrie. Das habe ich
gesehen. Gesehen.


Wird man es glauben, dass es solche Haeuser giebt? Nein, man wird sagen,
ich faelsche. Diesmal ist es Wahrheit, nichts weggelassen, natuerlich
auch nichts hinzugetan. Woher sollte ich es nehmen? Man weiss, dass
ich arm bin. Man weiss es. Haeuser? Aber, um genau zu sein, es waren
Haeuser, die nicht mehr da waren. Haeuser, die man abgebrochen hatte
von oben bis unten. Was da war, das waren die anderen Haeuser, die
danebengestanden hatten, hohe Nachbarhaeuser. Offenbar waren sie in
Gefahr, umzufallen, seit man nebenan alles weggenommen hatte; denn ein
ganzes Geruest von langen, geteerten Mastbaeumen war schraeg zwischen den
Grund des Schuttplatzes und die blossgelegte Mauer gerammt. Ich weiss
nicht, ob ich schon gesagt habe, dass ich diese Mauer meine. Aber es
war sozusagen nicht die erste Mauer der vorhandenen Haeuser (was man
doch haette annehmen muessen), sondern die letzte der frueheren. Man sah
ihre Innenseite. Man sah in den verschiedenen Stockwerken Zimmerwaende,
an denen noch die Tapeten klebten, da und dort den Ansatz des
Fussbodens oder der Decke. Neben den Zimmerwaenden blieb die ganze
Mauer entlang noch ein schmutzigweisser Raum, und durch diesen kroch in
unsaeglich widerlichen, wurmweichen, gleichsam verdauenden Bewegungen
die offene, rostfleckige Rinne der Abortroehre. Von den Wegen, die das
Leuchtgas gegangen war, waren graue, staubige Spuren am Rande der
Decken geblieben, und sie bogen da und dort, ganz unerwartet, rund um
und kamen in die farbige Wand hineingelaufen und in ein Loch hinein,
das schwarz und ruecksichtslos ausgerissen war. Am unvergesslichsten
aber waren die Waende selbst. Das zaehe Leben dieser Zimmer hatte sich
nicht zertreten lassen. Es war noch da, es hielt sich an den Naegeln,
die geblieben waren, es stand auf dem bandbreiten Rest der Fussboeden,
es war unter den Ansaetzen der Ecken, wo es noch ein klein wenig
Innenraum gab, zusammengekrochen. Man konnte sehen, dass es in der
Farbe war, die es langsam, Jahr um Jahr, verwandelt hatte: Blau in
schimmliches Gruen, Gruen in Grau und Gelb in ein altes, abgestandenes
Weiss, das fault. Aber es war auch in den frischeren Stellen, die sich
hinter Spiegeln, Bildern und Schraenken erhalten hatten; denn es hatte
ihre Umrisse gezogen und nachgezogen und war mit Spinnen und Staub
auch auf diesen versteckten Plaetzen gewesen, die jetzt blosslagen. Es
war in jedem Streifen, der abgeschunden war, es war in den feuchten
Blasen am unteren Rande der Tapeten, es schwankte in den abgerissenen
Fetzen, und aus den garstigen Flecken, die vor langer Zeit entstanden
waren, schwitzte es aus. Und aus diesen blau, gruen und gelb gewesenen
Waenden, die eingerahmt waren von den Bruchbahnen der zerstoerten
Zwischenmauern, stand die Luft dieser Leben heraus, die zaehe, traege,
stockige Luft, die kein Wind noch zerstreut hatte. Da standen die
Mittage und die Krankheiten und das Ausgeatmete und der jahrealte
Rauch und der Schweiss, der unter den Schultern ausbricht und die
Kleider schwer macht, und das Fade aus den Munden und der Fuselgeruch
gaerender Fuesse. Da stand das Scharfe vom Urin und das Brennen vom Russ
und grauer Kartoffeldunst und der schwere, glatte Gestank von
alterndem Schmalze. Der suesse, lange Geruch von vernachlaessigten
Saeuglingen war da und der Angstgeruch der Kinder, die in die Schule
gehen, und das Schwuele aus den Betten mannbarer Knaben. Und vieles
hatte sich dazugesellt, was von unten gekommen war, aus dem Abgrund
der Gasse, die verdunstete, und anderes war von oben herabgesickert
mit dem Regen, der ueber den Staedten nicht rein ist. Und manches hatte
die schwachen, zahm gewordenen Hauswinde, die immer in derselben
Strasse bleiben, zugetragen, und es war noch vieles da, wovon man den
Ursprung nicht wusste. Ich habe doch gesagt, dass man alle Mauern
abgebrochen hatte bis auf die letzte--? Nun von dieser Mauer spreche
ich fortwaehrend. Man wird sagen, ich haette lange davorgestanden; aber
ich will einen Eid geben dafuer, dass ich zu laufen begann, sobald ich
die Mauer erkannt hatte. Denn das ist das Schreckliche, dass ich sie
erkannt habe. Ich erkenne das alles hier, und darum geht es so ohne
weiteres in mich ein: es ist zu Hause in mir.


Ich war etwas erschoepft nach alledem, man kann wohl sagen angegriffen,
und darum war es zuviel fuer mich, dass auch er noch auf mich warten
musste. Er wartete in der kleinen Cremerie, wo ich zwei Spiegeleier
essen wollte; ich war hungrig, ich war den ganzen Tag nicht dazu
gekommen zu essen. Aber ich konnte auch jetzt nichts zu mir nehmen;
ehe die Eier noch fertig waren, trieb es mich wieder hinaus in die
Strassen, die ganz dickfluessig von Menschen mir entgegenrannen. Denn
es war Fasching und Abend, und die Leute hatten alle Zeit und trieben
umher und rieben sich einer am andern. Und ihre Gesichter waren voll
von dem Licht, das aus den Schaubuden kam, und das Lachen quoll aus
ihren Munden wie Eiter aus offenen Stellen. Sie lachten immer mehr
und draengten sich immer enger zusammen, je ungeduldiger ich versuchte
vorwaerts zu kommen. Das Tuch eines Frauenzimmers hakte sich irgendwie
an mir fest, ich zog sie hinter mir her, und die Leute hielten mich
auf und lachten, und ich fuehlte, dass ich auch lachen sollte, aber ich
konnte es nicht. Jemand warf mir eine Hand Confetti in die Augen, und
es brannte wie eine Peitsche. An den Ecken waren die Menschen
festgekeilt, einer in den andern geschoben, und es war keine
Weiterbewegung in ihnen, nur ein leises, weiches Auf und Ab, als ob
sie sich stehend paarten. Aber obwohl sie standen und ich am Rande
der Fahrbahn, wo es Risse im Gedraenge gab, hinlief wie ein Rasender,
war es in Wahrheit doch so, dass sie sich bewegten und ich mich nicht
ruehrte. Denn es veraenderte sich nichts; wenn ich aufsah, gewahrte ich
immer noch dieselben Haeuser auf der einen Seite und auf der anderen
die Schaubuden. Vielleicht auch stand alles fest, und es war nur ein
Schwindel in mir und ihnen, der alles zu drehen schien. Ich hatte
keine Zeit, darueber nachzudenken, ich war schwer von Schweiss, und es
kreiste ein betaeubender Schmerz in mir, als ob in meinem Blute etwas
zu Grosses mittriebe, das die Adern ausdehnte, wohin es kam. Und dabei
fuehlte ich, dass die Luft laengst zu Ende war und dass ich nur mehr
Ausgeatmetes einzog, das meine Lungen stehen liessen.


Ich kann mich nicht erinnern, wie ich durch die vielen Hoefe
hinausgekommen war. Es war Abend, und ich verirrte mich in der
fremden Gegend und ging Boulevards mit endlosen Mauern in einer
Richtung hinauf und, wenn dann kein Ende da war, in der
entgegengesetzten Richtung zurueck bis an irgendeinen Platz. Dort
begann ich eine Strasse zu gehen, und es kamen andere Strassen, die ich
nie gesehen hatte, und wieder andere. Elektrische Bahnen rasten
manchmal ueberhell und mit hartem, klopfendem Gelaeute heran und vorbei.
Aber auf ihren Tafeln standen Namen, die ich nicht kannte. Ich wusste
nicht, in welcher Stadt ich war und ob ich hier irgendwo eine Wohnung
hatte und was ich tun musste, um nicht mehr gehen zu muessen.


Heute habe ich es nicht erwartet, ich bin so mutig ausgegangen, als
waere das das Natuerlichste und Einfachste. Und doch, es war wieder
etwas da, das mich nahm wie Papier, mich zusammenknuellte und fortwarf,
es war etwas Unerhoertes da.

Der Boulevard St-Michel war leer und weit, und es ging sich leicht auf
seiner leisen Neigung. Fensterfluegel oben oeffneten sich mit glaesernem
Aufklang, und ihr Glaenzen flog wie ein weisser Vogel ueber die Strasse.
Ein Wagen mit hellroten Raedern kam vorueber, und weiter unten trug
jemand etwas Lichtgruenes. Pferde liefen in blinkernden Geschirren auf
dem dunkel gespritzten Fahrdamm, der rein war. Der Wind war erregt,
neu, mild, und alles stieg auf: Gerueche, Rufe, Glocken.

Ich kam an einem der Cafehaeuser vorbei, in denen am Abend die falschen
roten Zigeuner spielen. Aus den offenen Fenstern kroch mit schlechtem
Gewissen die uebernaechtige Luft. Glattgekaemmte Kellner waren dabei,
vor der Tuere zu scheuern. Der eine stand gebueckt und warf, handvoll
nach handvoll, gelblichen Sand unter die Tische. Da stiess ihn einer
von den Voruebergehenden an und zeigte die Strasse hinunter. Der
Kellner, der ganz rot im Gesicht war, schaute eine Weile scharf hin,
dann verbreitete sich ein Lachen auf seinen bartlosen Wangen, als waere
es darauf verschuettet worden. Er winkte den andern Kellnern, drehte
das lachende Gesicht ein paarmal schnell von rechts nach links, um
alle herbeizurufen und selbst nichts zu versaeumen. Nun standen alle
und blickten hinuntersehend oder -suchend, laechelnd oder aergerlich,
dass sie noch nicht entdeckt hatten, was Laecherliches es gaebe.

Ich fuehlte, dass ein wenig Angst in mir anfing. Etwas draengte mich auf
die andere Seite hinueber; aber ich begann nur schneller zu gehen und
ueberblickte unwillkuerlich die wenigen Leute vor mir, an denen ich
nichts Besonderes bemerkte. Doch ich sah, dass der eine, ein
Laufbursche mit einer blauen Schuerze und einem leeren Henkelkorb ueber
der einen Schulter, jemandem nachschaute. Als er genug hatte, drehte
er sich auf derselben Stelle nach den Haeusern um und machte zu einem
lachenden Kommis hinueber die schwankende Bewegung vor der Stirne, die
allen gelaeufig ist. Dann blitzte er mit den schwarzen AEugen und kam
mir befriedigt und sich wiegend entgegen.

Ich erwartete, sobald mein Auge Raum hatte, irgendeine ungewoehnliche
und auffallende Figur zu sehen, aber es zeigte sich, dass vor mir
niemand ging, als ein grosser hagerer Mann in einem dunklen UEberzieher
und mit einem weichen, schwarzen Hut auf dem kurzen, fahlblonden Haar.
Ich vergewisserte mich, dass weder an der Kleidung, noch in dem
Benehmen dieses Mannes etwas Laecherliches sei, und versuchte schon, an
ihm vorueber den Boulevard hinunter zu schauen, als er ueber irgend
etwas stolperte. Da ich nahe hinter ihm folgte, nahm ich mich in acht,
aber als die Stelle kam, war da nichts, rein nichts. Wir gingen
beide weiter, er und ich, der Abstand zwischen uns blieb derselbe.
Jetzt kam ein Strassenuebergang, und da geschah es, dass der Mann vor mir
mit ungleichen Beinen die Stufen des Gangsteigs hinunterhuepfte in der
Art etwa, wie Kinder manchmal waehrend des Gehens aufhuepfen oder
springen, wenn sie sich freuen. Auf den jenseitigen Gangsteig kam er
einfach mit einem langen Schritt hinauf. Aber kaum war er oben, zog
er das eine Bein ein wenig an und huepfte auf dem anderen einmal hoch
und gleich darauf wieder und wieder. Jetzt konnte man diese
ploetzliche Bewegung wieder ganz gut fuer ein Stolpern halten, wenn man
sich einredete, es waere da eine Kleinigkeit gewesen, ein Kern, die
glitschige Schale einer Frucht, irgend etwas; und das Seltsame war,
dass der Mann selbst an das Vorhandensein eines Hindernisses zu glauben
schien, denn er sah sich jedesmal mit jenem halb aergerlichen, halb
vorwurfsvollen Blick, den die Leute in solchen Augenblicken haben,
nach der laestigen Stelle um. Noch einmal rief mich etwas Warnendes
auf die andere Seite der Strasse, aber ich folgte nicht und blieb
immerfort hinter diesem Manne, indem ich meine ganze Aufmerksamkeit
auf seine Beine richtete. Ich muss gestehen, dass ich mich merkwuerdig
erleichtert fuehlte, als etwa zwanzig Schritte lang jenes Huepfen nicht
wiederkam, aber da ich nun meine AEugen aufhob, bemerkte ich, dass dem
Manne ein anderes AErgernis entstanden war. Der Kragen seines
UEberziehers hatte sich aufgestellt; und wie er sich auch, bald mit
einer Hand, bald mit beiden umstaendlich bemuehte, ihn niederzulegen, es
wollte nicht gelingen. Das kam vor. Es beunruhigte mich nicht. Aber
gleich darauf gewahrte ich mit grenzenloser Verwunderung, dass in den
beschaeftigten Haenden dieses Menschen zwei Bewegungen waren: eine
heimliche, rasche, mit welcher er den Kragen unmerklich hochklappte,
und jene andere ausfuehrliche, anhaltende, gleichsam uebertrieben
buchstabierte Bewegung, die das Umlegen des Kragens bewerkstelligen
sollte. Diese Beobachtung verwirrte mich so sehr, dass zwei Minuten
vergingen, ehe ich erkannte, dass im Halse des Mannes, hinter dem
hochgeschobenen UEberzieher und den nervoes agierenden Haenden dasselbe
schreckliche, zweisilbige Huepfen war, das seine Beine eben verlassen
hatte. Von diesem Augenblick an war ich an ihn gebunden. Ich begriff,
dass dieses Huepfen in seinem Koerper herumirrte, dass es versuchte, hier
und da auszubrechen. Ich verstand seine Angst vor den Leuten, und ich
begann selber vorsichtig zu pruefen, ob die Voruebergehenden etwas
merkten. Ein kalter Stich fuhr mir durch den Ruecken, als seine Beine
ploetzlich einen kleinen, zuckenden Sprung machten, aber niemand hatte
es gesehen, und ich dachte mir aus, dass auch ich ein wenig stolpern
wollte, im Falle jemand aufmerksam wurde. Das waere gewiss ein Mittel,
Neugierige glauben zu machen, es haette da doch ein kleines,
unscheinbares Hindernis im Wege gelegen, auf das wir zufaellig beide
getreten haetten. Aber waehrend ich so auf Huelfe sann, hatte er selbst
einen neuen, ausgezeichneten Ausweg gefunden. Ich habe vergessen zu
sagen, dass er einen Stock trug, nun, es war ein einfacher Stock, aus
dunklem Holze mit einem schlichten, rund gebogenen Handgriff. Und es
war ihm in seiner suchenden Angst in den Sinn gekommen, diesen Stock
zunaechst mit einer Hand (denn wer weiss, wozu die zweite noch noetig
sein wuerde) auf den Ruecken zu halten, gerade ueber die Wirbelsaeule, ihn
fest ins Kreuz zu druecken und das Ende der runden Kruecke in den Kragen
zu schieben, so dass man es hart und wie einen Halt hinter dem
Halswirbel und dem ersten Rueckenwirbel spuerte. Das war eine Haltung,
die nicht auffaellig, hoechstens ein wenig uebermuetig war; der
unerwartete Fruehlingstag konnte das entschuldigen. Niemandem fiel es
ein, sich umzusehen, und nun ging es. Es ging vortrefflich. Freilich
beim naechsten Strassenuebergange kamen zwei Huepfer aus, zwei kleine,
halbunterdrueckte Huepfer, die vollkommen belanglos waren; und der eine,
wirklich sichtbare Sprung war so geschickt angebracht (es lag gerade
ein Spritzschlauch quer ueber dem Weg), dass nichts zu befuerchten war.
Ja, noch ging alles gut; von Zeit zu Zeit griff auch die zweite Hand
an den Stock und presste ihn fester an, und die Gefahr war gleich
wieder ueberstanden. Ich konnte nichts dagegen tun, dass meine Angst
dennoch wuchs. Ich wusste, dass, waehrend er ging und mit unendlicher
Anstrengung versuchte, gleichgueltig und zerstreut auszusehen, das
furchtbare Zucken in seinem Koerper sich anhaeufte; auch in mir war die
Angst, mit der er es wachsen und wachsen fuehlte, und ich sah, wie er
sich an den Stock klammerte, wenn es innen in ihm zu ruetteln begann.
Dann war der Ausdruck dieser Haende so unerbittlich und streng, dass ich
alle Hoffnung in seinen Willen setzte, der gross sein musste. Aber was
war da ein Wille. Der Augenblick musste kommen, da seine Kraft zu Ende
war, er konnte nicht weit sein. Und ich, der ich hinter ihm herging
mit stark schlagendem Herzen, ich legte mein bisschen Kraft zusammen
wie Geld, und indem ich auf seine Haende sah, bat ich ihn, er moechte
nehmen, wenn er es brauchte.

Ich glaube, dass er es genommen hat; was konnte ich dafuer, dass es nicht
mehr war.

Auf der Place St-Michel waren viele Fahrzeuge und hin und her eilende
Leute, wir waren oft zwischen zwei Wagen und dann holte er Atem und
liess sich ein wenig gehen, wie um auszuruhen, und ein wenig huepfte es
und nickte ein wenig. Vielleicht war das die List, mit der die
gefangene Krankheit ihn ueberwinden wollte. Der Wille war an zwei
Stellen durchbrochen, und das Nachgeben hatte in den besessenen
Muskeln einen leisen, lockenden Reiz zurueckgelassen und den zwingenden
Zweitakt. Aber der Stock war noch an seinem Platz, und die Haende
sahen boese und zornig aus; so betraten wir die Bruecke, und es ging.
Es ging. Nun kam etwas Unsicheres in den Gang, nun lief er zwei
Schritte, und nun stand er. Stand. Die linke Hand loeste sich leise
vom Stock ab und hob sich so langsam empor, dass ich sie vor der Luft
zittern sah; er schob den Hut ein wenig zurueck und strich sich ueber
die Stirn. Er wandte ein wenig den Kopf, und sein Blick schwankte
ueber Himmel, Haeuser und Wasser hin, ohne zu fassen, und dann gab er
nach. Der Stock war fort, er spannte die Arme aus, als ob er
auffliegen wollte, und es brach aus ihm aus wie eine Naturkraft und
bog ihn vor und riss ihn zurueck und liess ihn nicken und neigen und
schleuderte Tanzkraft aus ihm heraus unter die Menge. Denn schon
waren viele Leute um ihn, und ich sah ihn nicht mehr.

Was haette es fuer einen Sinn gehabt, noch irgendwohin zu gehen, ich war
leer. Wie ein leeres Papier trieb ich an den Haeusern entlang, den
Boulevard wieder hinauf.


Junge Maedchen allerdings findet man zuweilen davor. Denn es giebt
eine Menge junger Maedchen in den Museen, die fortgegangen sind
irgendwo aus den Haeusern, die nichts mehr behalten. Sie finden sich
vor diesen Teppichen und vergessen sich ein wenig. Sie haben immer
gefuehlt, dass es dies gegeben hat, solch ein leises Leben langsamer,
nie ganz aufgeklaerter Gebaerden, und sie erinnern sich dunkel, dass sie
sogar eine Zeitlang meinten, es wuerde ihr Leben sein. Aber dann
ziehen sie rasch ein Heft hervor und beginnen zu zeichnen, gleichviel
was, eine von den Blumen oder ein kleines, vergnuegtes Tier. Darauf
kaeme es nicht an, hat man ihnen vorgesagt, was es gerade waere. Und
darauf kommt es wirklich nicht an. Nur dass gezeichnet wird, das ist
die Hauptsache; denn dazu sind sie fortgegangen eines Tages, ziemlich
gewaltsam. Sie sind aus guter Familie. Aber wenn sie jetzt beim
Zeichnen die Arme heben, so ergiebt sich, dass ihr Kleid hinten nicht
zugeknoepft ist oder doch nicht ganz. Es sind da ein paar Knoepfe, die
man nicht erreichen kann. Denn als dieses Kleid gemacht wurde, war
noch nicht davon die Rede gewesen, dass sie ploetzlich allein weggehen
wuerden. In der Familie ist immer jemand fuer solche Knoepfe. Aber hier,
lieber Gott, wer sollte sich damit abgeben in einer so grossen Stadt.
Man muesste schon eine Freundin haben; Freundinnen sind aber in
derselben Lage, und da kommt es doch darauf hinaus, dass man sich
gegenseitig die Kleider schliesst. Das ist laecherlich und erinnert an
die Familie, an die man nicht erinnert sein will.


So unwahrscheinlich es ist, es war mir irgendwie gelungen, gegen Abend
allein aus dem Haus zu kommen; ich lief, ich bog um eine Ecke, und in
demselben Augenblick stiess ich gegen ihn. Ich begreife nicht, wie das,
was jetzt geschah, sich in etwa fuenf Sekunden abspielen konnte. So
dicht man es auch erzaehlt, es dauert viel laenger. Ich hatte mir weh
getan im Anlauf an ihn; ich war klein, es schien mir schon viel, dass
ich nicht weinte, auch erwartete ich unwillkuerlich, getroestet zu sein.
Da er das nicht tat, hielt ich ihn fuer verlegen; es fiel ihm,
vermutete ich, der richtige Scherz nicht ein, in dem diese Sache
aufzuloesen war. Ich war schon vergnuegt genug, ihm dabei zu helfen,
aber dazu war es noetig, ihm ins Gesicht zu sehen. Ich habe gesagt,
dass er gross war. Nun hatte er sich nicht, wie es doch natuerlich
gewesen waere, ueber mich gebeugt, so dass er sich in einer Hoehe befand,
auf die ich nicht vorbereitet war. Immer noch war vor mir nichts als
der Geruch und die eigentuemliche Haerte seines Anzugs, die ich gefuehlt
hatte. Ploetzlich kam sein Gesicht. Wie es war? Ich weiss es nicht,
ich will es nicht wissen. Es war das Gesicht eines Feindes. Und
neben diesem Gesicht, dicht nebenan, in der Hoehe der schrecklichen
Augen, stand, wie ein zweiter Kopf, seine Faust. Ehe ich noch Zeit
hatte, mein Gesicht wegzusenken, lief ich schon; ich wich links an ihm
vorbei und lief geradeaus eine leere, furchtbare Gasse hinunter, die
Gasse einer fremden Stadt, einer Stadt, in der nichts vergeben wird.