PENGUIN

TWENTIETH

-

CENTURY

CLASSICS

GEORGES

PEREC

GEORGES
pedes

PEREC
and Other Pieces

Species

of Spaces

and Other Pieces

if Spaces

EDITED WITH

AN INTRODUCTION AND TRANSLATED BY JOHN STURROCK

'One of the most sionificant literary personalities in the world' - Italo Calvino
Georges Perec, author of the highly acaIaimed Life, A User'$ Manual, was only f0rtr--six when he died in .t 982. Despite a tragi.c GuildhQod Juring wrutl"h his motile;- was deport-ed tQ Auschwitz, Peree p_Fodliced some of the most entertaining essays .(;lfthe' -age. His literary output was deUher'<ltely varied in forrd and _tyl and this. gene~eus selection of Peree's noo-fiCtional work) the n:r:st to appear in English, demonstrates his characteristic lightn.ess of touell. wry humour and accessibility. As lie centemplates the many ways ill wbleb w~ occuR)' the space around u • as he depic_~ the commonplace. item wlth whiGb we we fam:il:iar in a startling, engrossitLg way, as. he recounts his psychoanalysis while remainingl'epc_ent about hi;feelings or depicts the Paris .of his childhood. without a traee of sentimentality, ,V~ \Jecom€ awa.ee that we are to the pre-l1-eJ;l~ ~ FeJnat."kable:,. of virtuoso writer.

Cover photograph

or Georges

Perce © Maurice H('nry/L'Expn~ss

PENGUIN
Selected Writings

ISBN 0-14-018986-6

I

.

U.K. £10.99 U.S.A. $16.00 CAN. $20.99

9 780140 189865 .

Species

if Spaces

/ Especes d'espaces

(1974)

FOT

Pien'e Getzler

SPACE OPEN ENCLOSED OUTER SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE LIVING PROJECTIVE LACK OF SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE DEEP SPACE SPACE SPACE EUCLIDEAN SPACE SPACE SPACE BLANK PARKING SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE SP ACE SPACE LOST STARING WATCH IN SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE SP ACE CATCHER BUNCHER THREE-DIMENSIONAL SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE NULL SPACE RACE SICKNESS CURVE: LA TT1.CE INTO THIS INVADERS WALK TIME BAR CONTINUUM OUT CADET STATION ODYSSEY SALESMAN BAND HEATER CAPSULE SUIT AGE

SPACEOI'ERA

Vigllr~ ·1: i\fhlll or the Ocean
{l:ak('!)1 from I ,l'wis C<lrroWs Hunting!.?f

HAIR

the SMrk}

LEAVE INTERCOSTAL AVAILABLE POSITION EDGES WIDE

A SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE SPACE IN OF SPACE SPACE SPACE WRITER SPACES SPACE SPACE SAVING FILLER SPACE SPACE SPACE NEEDLE OF A MOMENT

Foreword

The subject of this book is not the void exactly, but rather what there is round about or inside it

OPEN

(cf

Fig.

1).

To start with, then,

LACK OF ENCLOSED WASTED

there isn't very much: nothingness, the impalpable, the virtually immaterial; extension, the external, what is external to us, what we move about in the midst of, our ambient milieu, the space is so around us. Space. Not so much those infinite spaces, whose mutism prolonged that it ends by triggering nor the already almost domesticated or intergalactic in principle off something interplanetary,

akin to fear, intersidereal or

spaces, but spaces that are much closer to hand, or the countryside,

anyway: towns, for example,

the corridors of the Paris Metro, or a public park. We live in space, in these spaces, these towns, this countryside, these corridors, these parks. That seems obvious to us. Perhaps indeed it should be obvious. But it isn't obvious, not just a matter of course. It's real, obviously, and as a consequence most likely rational. We can touch. We can even allow ourselves to dream. There's nothing, for example, to stop us from imagining things that are neither towns nor countryside (nor suburbs), or Metro corridors that are at the same time public parks. Nor anything to forbid us imagining a Metro in the heart of the countryside [campagne] (I've even before now seen an advertisement to that effect, but it was - how shall I put it? - a publicity campaign

[campagne]).
What's certain, in any case, is that at a time too remote no doubt for any of us to have retained anything like a precise memory of it, there was none of all this: neither corridors, nor parks, nor towns, nor countryside. The problem isn't so much to find out how we have reached this point, but simply to recognize that we have reached it, that we are here. There isn't one space, a beautiful space, a beautiful space round about, a beautiful space all around

J

6

Species of Spaces

us, there's a whole lot of small bits of space, and one of these bits is a Metro corridor, and another of them is a public park. Another - and here we suddenly enter into much more particularized spaces - originally quite modest in size, has attained fairly colossal dimensions and has become Paris, whereas a space near by, not necessarily any less well endowed to begin with, has been content to remain Pontoise. Still another space, much larger and vaguely hexagonal, has been surrounded by a broad dotted line (innumerable events, some of them particularly weighty, had as their sole purpose the tracing out of this dotted line) and it has been decided that everything found inside this dotted line should be coloured violet and be called France, while everything found outside this dotted line should be in a different colour (although, outside the aforesaid hexagon, they weren't in the least anxious to be of a uniform colour: one bit of space wanted its colour and another bit its, whence the famous problem in topology of the four colours, unresolved to this day) and have a different name (in point of fact and for quite a few years, there was a strong insistence on colouring violet - and thereby calling France - bits of space that didn't belong to the aforesaid hexagon, but were often far distant from it, but, generally speaking, that didn't last half so well). In short, spaces have multiplied, been broken up and have diversified. There are spaces today of every kind and every size, for every use and every function. To live is to pass from one space to another, while doing your very best not to bump yourself.

or, if you prefer:
ACT ONE

A voice (off): To the North, nothing. To the South, nothing. To the East, nothing. To the West, nothing. In the centre, nothing. The curtain falls. End of Act One.
ACT TWO

A voice (off): To the North, nothing. To the South, nothing. To the East, nothing. To the West, nothing. In the centre, a tent. The curtain falls. End of Act Two.
ACT THREE AND LAST

A voice (off): To the North, nothing. To the South, nothing. To the East, nothing. To the West, nothing. In the centre, a tent, and, in front of the tent, an orderly busy polishing a pair of boots with 'LION NOIR' boot polish! The curtain falls. End of Act Three and Last. (Author unknown. Learnt around 1947, recalled in 1973')

the cloth knocked the table over.' 1 write that 1 write . on that staircase. etc. a text forms. the table knocked the room over. The bird knocked the egg over. 1 write: 1 trace words on a page. the house knocked the street over. on that cloth. Children's song from Les Deux-Sevres (Paul Eluard. the cage knocked the cloth over.... in that house. gives it a direction. 1 write: 'I write . L~tter by letter. is confirmed. there is a house. affirms itself.. in that cage. in that street. there is a cloth.. 1 write: 1 write . there is a table.. Poesie incolontaire et poesie intentionellei The Page 'I write in order to peruse myself' Henri Michaux 1 1 write . the staircase knocked the house over. there is a nest. in that nest. the egg knocked the nest over. there is a cage. there is a street.. there is a staircase. there is a room. on that table. vectorizes it: from left to right f r o m . there is an egg.. is fixed: a fairly strictly h o r z o n t a I line is set down on the blank sheet of paper.Or again: In Paris. . there is a bird. blackens the virgin space. the nest knocked the cage over. the street knocked the town 91Paris over. is frozen. the room knocked the staircase over. in that room. in that egg.

2 The space of a sheet of paper (regulation international size. J write in the margin p t o b o t t o m Before. a recto and a verso. had a tower built each stone of which had the title of one of his books engraved on it. 1. I am very fond of footnotes at the bottom of the page. there was nothing. or almost nothing.10 Species if Spaces t o THE PAGE II 3 I write: I inhabit my sheet of paper. either of the island of St Helena or of Lake Trasimeno. as used in Government departments. You have to write a little over sixteen pages to take up one square metre. a few signs.7 ern. you could. even if I don't have anything in particular to clarify there. on sale at all stationers) measures 623. if you were to pull apart all the printed bookskept in the Bibliotheque Nationale and spread the pages carefully out one beside the other. afterwards. . Assuming the average format of a book to be 21 by 29. but which are enough for there to be a top and a bottom. I incite blanks. cover the whole. You could also work out the number of hectares of forest that have had to be felled in order to produce the paper needed to print the works of Alexandre Dumas (Pere) . I refer to a footnote' I go to a new sheet of paper. I travel across it. who. changes of key). I invest it. it will be remembered. transitions. a right and a left. I start a new paragraph. spaces (jumps in the meaning: discontinuities.7 sq. a beginning and an end. cm. there isn't much.

writing right through the day. or of a diary. underwear etc. the page of a notebook. with words only. here are the dunes. the river-mouth and the delta. here is the town and its anchorage. that place in Borges from which the entire world is visible simultaneously. Space begins with that model map in the old editions of the Petit Larousse Illustre.. to become alive. and here are the mountains. the river. its offshore bar. to a list of urgently needed supplies (coffee. crossing-out. etc. a paper space. the back of an envelope etc. here is the sea with its islands. roughing out a plan. and the promontory. one or another of the miscellaneous elements that comprise the everydayness of life comes to be inscribed. contract. receipt etc. alimentary): i. its shoals. the confluence. and the gulf and the bay.e. and the marshes. Baudrillard book.). 75-watt bulb. the hill. the margin of a newspaper. anything other than an alphabet? Space as inventory. here are the spring and the stream. to be 1 . rediscovering. the slope. getting there. or right through the night. in a journal containing a summary of almost all the others in the field of the life sciences. a simple pretext for a nomenclature. and the head. rewriting. like those portolano-makers who saturated the coastlines with the names of harbours. batteries. signs traced on the blank page. to the laborious drafting of an official letter. the isthmus and the peninsula. filling in index-cards. writing being in fact one of my principal activities). rereading. smiling (sometimes). play on letters. At one time or another. or the writing-out of a cheque. its rocks. putting one word next to another. To describe space: to name it. the volcano. which used to represent something like 65 geographical terms in 60 sq. the mountain torrent. sitting down at the table and writing. miraculously brought together. the tedious filling-in of a form (tax return. an envelope or a package. But you don't even need to close your eyes for the space evoked by these words. Is the aleph. or what's commonly known as an 'idea'). sorting. from a piece of literary 'work' (writing. from notes taken at some lecture or other to the instant scribbling-down of some device that may come in useful (verbal play. sugar. the bight and the narrows. here are the lagoon and the cliff. recopying. its wadi and its salt lake. drawing sketches.) on which. waiting for it to come. Et cetera. Where I'm concerned (but I'm no doubt too choice an example. cm. the titles that may be of interest to the research- workers whose bibliographical documentation I am supposed to provide. assembling references. the g'orge. correcting proofs. here are the beach.. a dictionary space only. endorsement. deliberately abstract. and the hillside and. here are th plain and the plateau.) to work full stop (elementary. throwing away. here is the lake. trying to extract something that might resemble a text from something that continues to look like an insubstantial scrawl. at varying speeds and by a different technique depending on the place. and the cape and the inlet. and here are 'the strait. almost everything passes through a sheet of paper. the names of capes. subscription form. until in the end the land was only separated from the sea by a continuous ribbon of text. with its oasis. not getting there. this goes from an address caught in passing.). 5 This is how space begins. etc. an appointment noted down in haste. the estuary. sickness note. the canal. Here is the desert. to ticking. the glacier. verbal ploy. or some other chance support (a Metro ticket. its islets. cat litter. its reefs. to trace it. Virtual space. yes. the spur. the col. from the sometimes rather tricky solution to a Robert Scipion crossword to the fair copy of a finally completed text. direct debit for gas and electricity bills. sitting at the typewriter and writing. the names of inlets.\2 Species of Spaces THE PAGE 4 There are few events which don't leave a written trace at least. a cigarette packet. putting down capital Is and small as. time or mood. and the saltwater lakes. its archipelago.. lease. the peak. and its harbour and its lighthouse . looking in a dictionary. space as invention.

a sentry mounting guard in front of a public building. Accountants are giving There a block of houses. shopping. Studious readers are reading in the libraries. are coming out in twos into the school yard. A postman on his bicycle pedals laboriously bends of a lane. dozens of soldiers on the lake. A detachment a tricolour presents arms as an official wearing statue of a general. barges laden with gravel ply the canals. and farmers' of children up the hairpin beside the river.. there's a queue in front of the bakery. winegrowers m the vineyards. In small suburban of nurserymen are pruning fruit trees. of the oasis on his donkey .. a woman people raising doing the their are chestnut-vendors. Pianists are playing their scales. on the embankment. drinkers on the siecle villa stands all on its own surrounded There are little gingham terraces of the cafes. a lady weighed down by parcels hailing a taxi. lumberjacks in the forests. a cat warming itself in the sun. There's a policeman controlling are birds in the trees. There are garbage-collectors filling refuse trucks. A turbaned beating a carpet at her window. The streets of the town are full of cars. one gentleman walking his dog. beach. newspaper-sellers. fishermen iron shutter sewermen. of her haberdashery. There are washerwomen ders beside the roads. climbers roped together in the mountains. Afi·n-decurtains in the windows. Teachers their lessons. housewife is plots. second-hand booksellers along the quays. Space as reassurance. small sailing boats manoeuvre escorted by tugs enters the anchorage. another reading his newspaper sitting on a bench. an Arab wearing a big straw hat trots down the shady paths An idealized scene. another watching workmen demolishing the traffic. sash unveils the There are cows in the pasture. decorators putting up scaffolding. writers are forming lines of words. There are nannies in the squares. a big liner children play ball on the into rows of cream puffs. Sitting at their tables. to be filled: a long goods train drawn by a steam columns of figures. Apprentice deep in thought THE PAGE pastry cooks are stuffing cream locomotive passes over a viaduct. roadrnen- wives feeding the hens. Students are taking notes. Rows by tall glass buildings.r I Species of Spaces populated. are lining up . There's There are There sailors on the river.

). or a propitious tree threatened crevice that my enemies passed within inches of. massive.THE BED '7 2 The Bed 'Lit = fle'* Michel Leiris It was lying face-down on my bed that I read Twenty Years After. For survival. play Oil I he [irs: sell renee of Proust's great novel. etc. so tiny that her bed. This also means . which is 3 I like my bed. The bed is thus the individual space par excellence. or a baobab by fire. though of perfectly orthodox would barely fit in the room intended to receive it. the improbable I had my roots. it belonged to a woman friend of mine who had just moved into an apartment dimensions..that we have only one bed. A La recherche du temps perdu. or on which. When there are other beds in a house or an apartment. or a lifeboat on the raging ocean. the space of dreams and of an Oedipal nostalgia: Happy he who can sleep without fear and without remorse In the paternal bed. they are said to be guest beds or spare beds.this is easily verified in practice .. but no more. Even when we utilize the bed the more usual way round. unavailingly. 'For a long time I went to bed in writing' Parcel Mroust* The Mysterious Island and Jerry on the Island. despite the protection Bed: where unformulated of the blankets and pillow.' *A *Literally 'bed island'. The bed is an instrument the nocturnal if several conceived for harems. Jose-Maria de Heredia. The bed (or. Fear .was always present. aftermath traries. 'Italian' beds are only to be found in fairy tales (Tom Thumb daughters and usually serious circumstances and his brothers. ). or the seven abnormal of a of the Ogre. Leiris's point being that the closeness in sound between the two French words has somehow determined the closeness (for him) in their meaning. Trophees repose of one or two persons. Before that.terror even . the one which even the man completely crippled by debts has the right to keep: the bailiffs don't have the power to seize your bed. It seems we only sleep well in our own bed. we normally lie longways. it's almost always a sign of a catastrophe people have to sleep in it. The bed became a trapper's cabin. if you prefer. I travelled a great deal at the bottom of my bed. the elementary space of the body (the bed-monad). (mass exodus. We generally utilize the page in the larger of its two dimensions. I've had it for a little over two years. Where all his kinsfolk were born and where they died. = . the place of conby its ephemeral place where dangers threatened. our bed. the page) is a rectangular space. venerable. in which. longer than it is wide. for example) or in altogether carried sugar lumps I went and stole from the kitchen and hid under my bolster (they scratched . a tent erected in the desert. I The same goes for the bed. the space of the solitary body encumbered bombing raid. which reads: 'Iror a long time I went to bed early. the foreclosed space of desire.

more or less untouched). obviously.the history of. exercise-books loose sheets of paper. others that Ire-read the idea that lying down is something natural is quite inaccurate (see Marcel Mauss. bench in a sauna. another of aspirins (half full or. a collection of crosswords by Robert Scipion (I take the opportunity to address a tiny reproach to him: in the 43rd grid of the said collection. a few other small 4 A few other banalities: or. I was not the Company. woven from phantasms. which was slightly constantly). felt-pens. a pencil-sharpener. But people no longer pay any attention dispiritingly rectilinear exposed beams. an alarm-clock. the whole paragraph . my beds.see the next chapter . a comand narrower. of course. naturally. letters. ballpoints (both these last often dry). A huge plank has long served me as a bedhead. means that the corresponding word across is wrong [it couldn't decently be written as assomnoirJ and that the solution to the puzzle has been palpably compromised).. THE BED albums of strip cartoons. among others things. a hard brush that enabled me to give my (female as it happens) eat's fur a sheen that was the admiration but to inform numerous of all.implicitly got neanmoins with two ms. The others are much more specialized: operating table. pencils. yet another of cequinyl (an anti-flu treatment. which. notebooks. worse still. The bed is one of the rare places where we adopt roughly speaking a horizontal posture. in Sociologie et Anthropologie. excellent otherwise. I would gladly devote the major part of my time to this (the mornings mainly) were I not so often prevented by supposedly more urgent occupations (to list them would be tedious).. various kinds of music interspersed with whispered news items about traffic jams. various diaries. And what about hammocks? And paliasses? And bedsteads? And resting on box-beds? And divans deep as the grave? And straw pallets? And railway couchettes? And camp beds? And sleeping-bags air-beds themselves resting on a carpet of earth? . callers that thanks to which I was Michelin able.Species of Spaces so she swapped it for the one I then had. With the exception of solid foodstuffs (I'm not usually hungry everything when I stay in bed). 378. a torch. I like ceilings. not only to give my friends reports on my state of health. alas! . an eraser (these three last articles intended for the solving of the aforesaid crosswords). a pebble picked up on the beach at Dieppe. psychoanI couldn't do without was to be found assembled there. a few dozen books (some that I had intended to read and didn't read. chaise-longue. p. They often serve me instead of a Muse and the intricate embellishments in the plasterwork. in the areas of both the necessary and the pointless: a bottle of mineral water. a glass. a fully transistorized radio playing all day long.put me readily in mind of those other labyrinths. a packet of paper handkerchiefs. They are made so-called plete smoker's kit.would be worth quoting). a telephone. mementoes and a post office calendar. ideas and words. if you prefer. J like to stretch out on my bed and to gaze at the ceiling with a tranquil eye. a tube of AlkaSeltzer (empty). I like mouldings and ceiling roses. Techniques of sleeping: beach. should the mood take me. done up with We spend more than a third of our lives in a bed. alyst's couch .too succinct. half empty). to ceilings. piles of newspapers. (One day I shall write .) I like my bed. he has . a pair of nail-scissors (chipped unfortunately). numerous handouts I had neglected to throwaway. 'Techniques of the Body'.

on country I've ever succeeded in learning: the 54 opening notes . . the one tune I slaved away at playing. the width of the bed plus the width of the door. following with Tunisia and peace for the first time in for only a few days and of the doors and windows. a steaming my landlady was full and I' had been billeted would open my door and put down r greyness of a school dormitory. or any armchair. The coenesthetic certainty of my wall. and the negotiations experienced Thus: ROCK several decades: a situation that lasted which I don't think has recurred since.for the right hand. 1 believe fairly prodigious even. In theory.e. to revive memories. but a Renoir perhaps or a Sisley. with the daughter of a cotton-mill-owner who had recently returned from Alexandria. I always got up too late. memory of all the places I have slept in. I'm almost certain there was a framed print on the left-hand My memories are attached to the narrowness of that bed. which I don't thin k 1 used much. there is a small hanging cupboard. hardly more than one metre fifty). I had to be careful going upstairs when I came in late not to wake up my landlady family. I only came into this room to sleep. the most fleeting and anodyne along with the most essential. against the left-hand wall: I used to throw my clothes on to it before getting into bed.for me to feel. and only once or twice did I manage to arrive in time to eat the copious breakfast that was served in the boarding-house.which have all merged in the undifferentiated For the others. There was no table. At the far end. I flirted. (Cornwall) Summer 1~54 When you OpCll the door.lip until the end of the war . to the lingering bitterness of the tea that was too strong and too cold. It's a very narrow bed. harmoniums. somewhat fruitlessly. which I need to do. once I'm in bed. is very narrow (give or take a few centirnetres. all for the bedroom of the furniture have been living at a boarding-house children whose parents English. . the bed is almost immediately on the left. That summer. But the boarding-house on a family. is to close my back into my memory eyes and to think with a minimum to come instantly detail . to the narrowness of that room. It was on the third and last floor of the house. i. Each morning. with a basin and a water jug. the almost cup of 'morning tea' at the foot of my bed. too. In extension of the bed. To the right.t he position physical sensation invariably drank cold. a sash window.of a Bach prelude. more precisely of being once again in bed in that room. of application of a given place in every the arrangement still. the left hand most often failing to follow . I was on holiday. a washstand with a marble top. to recall.T I The Bedroom THE BEDROOM 21 but a chair without arms perhaps. or glasses of gin improved by a drop of angostura. I decided to become a writer. and not much longer than it is wide. There was lino on the floor. facing the bed. It will no doubt be remembered the Geneva Agreements Morocco. and the room. The resurrected space of the bedroom is enough to bring back to life. I don't think I sat on it. the entire planet that during that summer. with the exception of those from my earliest childhood . and her I had just passed my bac. I drank 'pink gins'. not just any old coloured print. I should that took in French to improve their schooluse of wanted them Fragments/rom a Work in Progress have an exceptional.

carpet. a concerto for mouth organ and orchestra written especisugar. nights on guard duty. boarding b. the the door beside me on the left (by out for a few moments order. when 1 went to spend three days there at the end of this pseudo-linguistic holiday. Have Slept'. nights under canvas. a speciality of seaside resorts. 1 have become something finally settled on the manner Certainly not in chronological order (although justification). It's no doubt because the space of the bedroom works for me like a Proustian madeleine (the whole project is of course invoked by this. Doubtless not in alphabetical arrangement. and give it an acuity I shall classify them. I spent only a few days or a few hours. it's the only order whose pertinence the 'guidebook' Maybe according to their geographical perspective which would emphasize aspect of the work. I spent several months or years in a small number of these rooms. There in most. in a car. and to a promenade concert at the Albert Hall. cole de chez Swann] of A fa recherche du. the mere fact of knowing (almost without stretched having needed to search for it. and the wooded countryside. Just as a word brought back from a dream can. the best known is Brighton rock. these alone reactivate of a home body). he took me into a pub smothered in greenery that. all it is is nothing more than a rigorous extension of paragraphs 6 and 7 of the first chapter of the first part [Combray ] of the first volume [Du. Houses in the country 7· Rented villas 8. etc. Friends' bedrooms 4· Guest rooms 5· Makeshift beds (settee. Hotel rooms a. on the other hand. where it may well be by Sir John Rock rock (decorated barley 1 was very proud to hear. nights in a police station. the grey beach. to make an inventory. THE BEDROOM body in the bed. As yet. raising my arm I could touch the handle). Or which might result the wall was on my right. nights on a boat. sadly. saw him again in London. restore a whole memory of that dream. even at Rock it was hard to escape it). nights in hospital. sleepless nights. where you might have expected sprites and will the wisps to appear at any moment. It's foolhardy perhaps on my part to claim 1 shall be able to remember every one of them: what was the pattern of the wallpaper in the Hotel du Lion d'Or in Saint-CheIy-d'Apcher much more surprising in that room (the name _ when spoken than when written . of all the 'Places Where all. here. 0' 9· Unusual conditions: nights on a train. exhaustive several years ago now. the cold sea.of that cantonal capital in the Lozere has been anchored for some unknown reason in my memory since I was in the third form and had been very insistent we should stop there)? But it's from the resurrected bedrooms that I expect the greatest memories of these ephemeral revelations obviously.) that 1 undertook. etc. marshmallows. temps perdu. I've scarcely begun to describe them. on a plane. else. conducted ally for Larry Adler). manner. 2. according rather to a thematic in a sort of typology of bedrooms: 1. scruffy hotels.22 Species of Spaces certainty of the bed in the year.the title of a novel by Graham Greene. I've never managed to find again since. simply by having and having closed my eyes) that the window facing me. Barbirolli. me speechless: immensely the young girl with instantly evokes in me a chaotic flood of details so vivid as to leave the doll-like long Englishman whose nose was slightly crooked (1 My bedrooms Dormitories and barrack-rooms 3. J believe I've just about listed them about two hundred are of them (barely half a dozen get added every .apart from being a play on words: there are rocks in Brighton just as there are cliffs in Etretat . luxury hotels houses plus cushions. almost before it is written down. requires no and a precision it hardly ever has otherwise. which is .) 6. with its old stone bridges. as 1 and as accurate as possible. I haven't in which yet my memory. the topographical room. moquette chaise-longue.

tins.pinned to the wall an oldpostcard showing Carpaccio's 'Dream of St Ursula'? Is it when you've experienced there the throes of anticipation. erasers. they know how to find favourable corners. Placid small thought no 2 The passage of time (my History) leaves behind a residue that accumulates: photographs. drawings.Species of Spaces THE BEDROOM 25 2 Minor problem When.this is What I call my fortune. or the torments of a toothache? Is it when you've hung suitable curtains up on the windows. postcards. can you say you are changing rooms. and put up the wallpaper. Even in the most dreadfully square spaces. and sanded the parquet flooring? 4 Placid small thought no I Any cat-owner will rightly tell you that cats inhabit houses much better than people do. in a given bedroom. books. cigar wrappers. the corpses of long since . non-returnable glasses and returnable glasses. you change the position of the bed. or else what? (cr. shins. topological analysis. to live in a room? Is to live in a place to take possession of it? vVhat does taking possession of a place mean? As from when does somewhere become truly yours? Is it when you've put your three pairs of socks to soak in a pink plastic bowl? Is it when you've heated up your spaghetti over a camping-gaz? Is it when you've used up all the non-matching hangers in the cupboard? Is it when you've drawing. dust and kJ'licklmacks.) dried-up felt-pens. 3 What does it mean. or the exaltations of passion.

to live without having dealings with a bank). nurses. The Apartment cinemas. bookshops. naturally. and minor problems of adaptation. watchmakers and opticians. a sitting-room is a room in which there are armchairs and a couch. she never went further than the landing on her own floor. She lived surrounded that she spent her time rubbing. dry cleaners who are equally happy to mend heels and make duplicate keys. She had lived in the a displacement. shops selling pens record shops. You've got restaurants. a dining-room is a whole month in an international airport. leather shops and perfumeries. all international airports being by definition identical. or a young boy from the building. when there is only a wash-basin it is known as a cloakroom. not very testing. one of my friends had the idea of living for a A bedroom is a room in which there is a bed. an entrance-hall is a room in which at least one of the doors leads outside the apartment. by exceedingly 3 A few years ago. She offered me an apple and invited gloomy furniture me in. You've got toilets. At most. The activities essential to life. screenplay. it would be too easy and. You've got hairdressers. and often a sideboard. easily be extended. a post office. after she had broken the neck of her femur. It would quite soon become tedious no doubt. and often saunas and Turkish baths. In the last years of her life. without ever leaving it (unless. but it's hard to see what. Seen in this light. bars and cafeterias. a kitchen is a room in which there is a cooker and a water inlet. a bathroom is a room in which there is a water inlet above a bathtub. tobacconists You've and sweet shops. as a consequence. to catch a plane that would have taken him to another international airport). an airport a sort of shopping mall.THE APARTMENT Z7 florists. it is known as a shower-room. we might use it as the subject-matter for a piece of reportage. there might be to prevent him. and age. objectively. To my knowledge. All told. or as the point of departure for an umpteenth comic Several times she stopped me on the stairs to ask me what day it was. when there is only a shower. in which room in which there are a table and chairs. So we could hardly draw any practical conclusion from such an undertaking. a broom closet is a room into which you put brooms and the vacuum cleaner. by way of either subversion or acclimatization. restrooms even. and most social activities. The concierge. had been a widow for sixty. a child's bedroom is a room into which you put a child. of our habits and rhythms. flying secretarial whole host of banks (since it's practically services and. bootblacks. in addition. pedicurists. From this list. you may find a coat-rack in there. The interest of such an undertaking would lie above all in its exoticism: For two years. a maid's bedroom is a room that you let to a student. it offers the same benefits as a hotel. got food shops. is no more than neighbourhood. impossible. a simulated urban Give or take a few things. One day I went to get her a slice of ham. a in this day and photographers. ran her errands. masseurs and physiotherapists. two elementary passengers in transit can take a nap. can be carried out without di fficulty within the confines of an international aren't airport: there are deep armchairs and often and bench seats that too uncomfortable. 1 had a very old neighbour. which might conclusions may be drawn that I offer by way of definitions: . building for seventy years. he has never realized this project. more apparent than real. baths and showers.

They're heated. quite often.00 The child takes his coat from the I.15 The father takes his coat from the and leaves again for his office 13. and a bathroom ought to be like. They always have at least one door and also. Apartments are built by architects who have very precise ideas of what an entrance-hall. that in the ideal dividing-up of today's apartments functionality functions in accordance with a procedure that is unequivocal.15 The father returns from the office and hangs his coat up in the 12. Each room has a particular function.15 The child gets up and goes into the 07.00 The mother gets up and goes to get breakfast in the 07.30 The mother performs her toilet in the 08-45 The mother takes the vacuum cleaner from the and does the housework (she then goes through all the rooms of the apartment but I forbear from listing them) 09. I don't know.00 The mother takes her coat from the and goes out for a walk or ENTRANCE-HALL BATHROOM BROOM CLOSET KITCHEN ENTRANCE-HALL ENTRANCE-HALL KITCHEN ENTRANCE-HALL DINING-ROOM ENTRANCE-HALL KITCHEN ENTRANCE-HALL . to question these self-evident facts. if Spaces f THE APARTMENT Every apartment consists of a variable. a child's room. and to each slice of time there corresponds one room of the apartment.30 The father gets up and goes into the 07-45 The father and the child have their breakfast in the 08. 2. I 29 KITCHEN BATHROOM BATHROOM KITCHEN ENTRANCE-HALL This is the best phrase in the whole book! and goes off to school 08.' The activities of the day correspond to slices of time. and fitted with one or two power points (very rarely more. reception room). a parents' bedroom. but if I start in on the niggardliness of building contractors.30 The mother returns from shopping and puts her coat back in the 10·45 The mother prepares lunch in the 12. or let's say rectangular parallelepiped. a box-room. let's say by a radiator. number of rooms. however. a maid's room. but finite. In sum.30 The father and the mother have lunch in the (the child is a day boarder) 13. and it is no good their trying to impress us with stuff about modules and other nonsense: they're never anything more than a sort of cube. in any case. a kitchen.15 The father takes his coat from the and goes off to his office 08. where functionality begins or ends. a sitting-room (living-room. more or less. I shall never stop). The following model is hardly a caricature: 07. It would seem difficult. or rather it would seem derisory. and don't want to know.28 Species 1. sequential and nyctherneral. all rooms are alike. a window. It seems to me.30 The mother does the dishes in the 14.30 The mother fetches her shopping basket from the and her coat from the and goes to do the shopping 10. To start with. a room is a fairly malleable space.

Monsieur's study. or else they listen to the radio. but a sleeping-area. that delimiting my model 16. I would stress. but it is nevertheless like that. exhausted the other hand.30 as here. or an smellery to conceive of a division 21. 19. THE APARTMENT 31 You will notice that in this model. etc. a bedroom. smoking-room. of course. on in any by a would not be modified into the broom closet. or else they play cards. It takes a little more imagination whose layout was based on the functioning imagine well enough what a gustatorium or a feelery. not a kitchen but a cooking-area.45 22. billiard-room. we envisaged. spaces separated a dining-room. you will notice then.00 . which.). of recuperation way if. sitting-room. That after all was how the so-called reception rooms were divided up ideally in the large town houses of the eighteenth century or the great bourgeois apartments of the fin de siecle. that. We can might be. library. small drawing-room. as is often done these days.30 16·45 are the same. that architects and town planners see us as living or want us to live). pseudo-modular space (living-room. is both though I'm convinced of its elementary rightness (no one lives exactly like that. a sequence of drawing-rooms vestibule. no doubt to picture an apartment of the senses. 18·45 office and puts his coat 18. 18.15 16.50 back in the The father goes to wash his hands in the The whole small family has supper in the The chi ld goes to brush his teeth in the The child goes to bed in the The father and the mother go into the they watch television. etc.. instead of having. It is hardly BATHROOM BEDROOM any more transgressive but one might wonder what a seeery might look like. in short they while away the time The father and the mother go and brush their teeth in the The father and the mother go to bed in their kitchen. on the one hand. a purportedly single. We would then have. or else the father reads the newspaper while the mother does some sewing. etc. or an auditory. and not otherwise.00 no longer on the activities of the day. whose layout would depend. leading off a large on minimal variations all 20. but on functional relationships is between the rooms.30 SITTING-ROOM revolving around the notion of reception: large drawing-room. whose specification rested en suite. Madame's boudoir.15 20. a sitting-room.30 Species of Spaces to run some errands before going to fetch the child from school The mother and the child return and put their coats ENTRANCE-HALL KITCHEN CHILD'S KITCHEN from his ENTRANCE-HALL BATHROOM DINING-ROOM BATHROOM CHILD'S ROOM ROOM back in the The child has his tea in the The child goes to do his homework in the The mother gets supper ready in the The father returns fictional and problematic. not a dining-room not a bedroom but an eating-area.00 It's not hard to imagine an apartment 20. the sitting-room and bedroom are of hardly any more importance functions practical partitions than the broom closet (the vacuum cleaner goes bodies into the bedroom: the two and maintenance) and.

I am now well and truly at Daumesnil. The Tuesdayery. roughly analogous to that which used to exist in brothels (after they were shut down. would imitate a boat: you would sleep in hammocks. but on heptadian rhythms. that the Metro train has just stopped and that. seemingly. It's no more foolish to conceive of a room exclusively devoted to Mondays than to build villas that are only used for sixty days in the year. useful and functional. All of a sudden I realize I am here. in Bayreuth in July. several of my friends thus lived in a former 'maison' in the Rue de l'Arcade. Language itself. The Mondayery. it should be observed. Fridayery. hanging space. would hardly be a departure from the functional. Not 'without any precise function' but precisely without any function. It would be better. their liking for travel. would commemorate one of Man's great victories over Nature. having left Dugommier some ninety seconds before. I haven't succeeded in thinking of nothing. to imagine a thematic arrangement. . a destiny. walls." gingerbread etc. on the Cote d'Azur in November. and Sundayery. known respectively as the Mondayery. Tuesdayery. etc. in Scotland in September. in Marrakesh in April. a third in the 'trapper's cabin' [walls papered with fake logs. while we're at it. in Venice in March. But. why not. J repeat. to choice). It wouldn't be a junkroom. like Raymond Queneau's Ami Pierrot. an activity. dried beef when you're flush). furniture made from plasticine. this void. in Paris in May. and in London in December.Species of Spaces based. in Switzerland in February. that would serve no purpose at all. for example. They are to be found. The Wednesdayery would glorify children. you would sleep under thick furs. in the event. and until the fifties. or a cubby-hole. 4 A space without a use I have several times tried to think of an apartment in which there would be a useless room. It wouldn't obviously be a space intended solely to 'release' the others (lumber-room. they were turned into student hostels. being the day on which. It would serve for nothing. etc.]).]. in Rome in October. or nursery rhyme. This. etc. not pluri-functional (everyone knows how to do that). another in the 'aeroplane' [bed shaped like a cockpit. no longer on circadian. obviously. How does one think of nothing? How to think of nothing without automatically putting something round that nothing. a lack. For all my efforts. The Mondayery could ideally be a laundry-room (our country forebears did their washing on Mondays) and the Tuesdayery a drawing-room (our urban forebears were happy to receive visitors on Tuesdays). relate to nothing.' This would give us apartments of seven rooms. for example. ? I have tried to follow wherever this limp idea led me. or the ascent of Everest: the room wouldn't be heated. Thursdayery. I have *The reference is to a well-known French comptine. a gaze. A space without a function. it could be a sort of Dame Tartine's I.) but a space. it wouldn't be an extra bedroom. Saturdayery. storage space.. or a corner. absolutely and intentionally useless. or a corridor. +In a novel called Pierrot mon ami. so turning it into a hole. a need. commercialized under the ~ name of 'second' or 'weekend homes'. one in the 'torture chamber'. swab down the floor and eat fish. into which one will hasten to put something.] of the death of Louis XVI. but a-functional. as if we could only speak of what is full. in Mexico in January. in Cyprus in June. cupboard. I THE APARTMENT 33 Palace. I found it impossible to follow this idea through to the end. These two last rooms. A habitat based on a circa-annual rhythm exists among a few of the 'happy few' who are sufficiently well endowed with residences to be able to attempt to reconcile their sense or values. the discovery of the Pole (North or South. obviously. not even. climatic conditions and cultural imperatives. It would be a functionless space. proved unsuited to describing this nothing.. I sometimes manage to think ofnothing. a function. fake portholes. a surplus . for a long time now. they haven't had to go to school. in the Dordogne in August. already exist in abundance. the diet would be based on pemmican (corned beef at the end of the month. Wednesdayery.

Vacating the scene. vainly searches all night long. for the bed where he will be able finally to get to sleep. But nor the unused. by pressing which you can make something like a grey Maltese cross appear for a brief flash against a white background. in his anxiety as to the Making an inventory tidying up sorting out Eliminating throwing away palming off on Breaking Burning Taking down unhooking up unfastening unnailing pulling going through unsticking unscrewing folding fate of his son. so vast that I could never remember how many rooms it had (I had known. were used for something.The Immortals'). anything that was really satisfactory. All the rooms.nstalling botching up sizing bre-aking threading filtering tariJ. The effort itself seemed to produce How to expel functions. interiors thought which I thought of the Great I thought a room Pyramids and the church Japanese. last room. than for the readers in Borges's story of the 'Library of Babel' to find the book that held the key to all the others. from room to room. the so-called Maria Theresa.34 Species of Spaces many unusable spaces and many unused spaces. up. Indeed. Clearing out. I thought discovering of the dreams I had had on this very subject." the narrator of something without Moving in cleaning checking trying out changing fi ttingsign ing wai ting imagining inyencing imrestingdeciding bending folding stooping sheathing fitting out stripping hare splittin. but had forgotten. rhythms. I thought of a gigantic Skinner's Box: a bedroom entirely hung in black. Decamping.g of the vague memory discovers I had of a text by Heissenbuttel either doors or windows. how to expel necessity? I imagined myself living in a vast apartment. again on such a complicated and knew I was too old now to start enumeration). when all's said and done. I in of Saenredam. don't think I was altogether wasting THE APARTMENT 35 to go encountered I wanted my time in trying neither the unusable beyond this improbable something limit.pil1'g crammiJ)g sharpenin. but the useless. I never managed . except The whole point was to find this that might be a statute of the inhabitable. habits. Clearing one. I thought of a science-fiction vanished. another devoted to reading the barometer or to cleaning my right big toe. I thought of engravings by Escher and paintings by Magritte. 5 Moving out Leaving an apartment. in the old days. I thought of old Prince Bolkonsky who. But I a room I didn't know about in my own apartment. has in Unplugging detaching cutting off Rolling up Wrapping up packing cutting dismantling away strapping wrapping up tying piling up covering assembling surrounding Removing Sweeping Closing Leaving heaping up fastening locking carrying lifting protecting which men no longer inhabited by the need to live and to die have built ruined palaces and unusable staircases. It was no harder. there is something almost vertiginously Borgesian in trying to imagine a room reserved for listening to Haydn's Symphony Number 48 in C. a solitary switch on the wall.g turning returning beating muttering rushingat lrneading lining lip protecting covering over mixing ripping out sliciDg con neeti ng biding setting going activating i. followed by his servant Tikhon carrying fur blankets. torch in hand. I thought novel in which the very notion of habitat of another Borges story (.

The door breaks space in two. It had been built by Frank Lloyd Wright. very gradually. imposes a partition. prevents osmosis. my typewriter. the path became stony. we barricade ourselves in. there wouldn't be a key. politics. other people. You have to have the password. neither in one direction nor in the other. several years ago. just as the prisoner communicates with the world outside. On one side. a slight declivity that was oblique to start with but which slowly approached the vertical. on the other side. me and my place. an interruption. Michigan. How to be specific?It's not a matter of opening or not opening the door. my carpet. have to communicate. that's to say that at . the world. without your having any right at any given moment to declare that you had remarked anything like a transition. You began by following a gently winding path to the left of which there rose up. we would have been able to draw far more startling conclusions. my table. can't pass from one to the other. with an extreme nonchalance even. without thinking. Bit by bit. in Lansing. I saw one one day. you can deduce some of the morphological characteristics of their very ancient builders. have to cross the threshold. The idea is as spectacular as it is gratuitous (why triangular:». The problem isn't whether or not there are keys: if there wasn't a door. splits it. the domestic (a space overfilled with my possessions: my bed. the private. but if there hadn't been any doors at all. a passage. You can't simply let yourself slide from one into the other. not a matter of 'leaving the key in the door'. the public. It's hard obviously to imagine a house which doesn't have a door. as if by chance. Doors stop and separate.Species oj Spaces THE APARTMENT 37 polishing making firm driving in pinning together hanging up arranging sawing fixing pinning up marking noting working out climbing measuring mastering seeing surveying pressing hard down on priming rubbing down painting rubbing scrapingconnecting climbing stumbling straddling mislaying finding again rummaging around getting nowhere brushing puttying stripping camouflaging puttying adjusting coming and going putting a gloss on allowing to dry admiring being surprised getting worked up growing impatient suspending judgment assessing adding up inserting sealing nailing screwing bolting sewing crouching perching moping centring reaching washing laundering evaluating reckoning smiling main taining subtracting multiplying kicking your heels roughing out buying acquiring receiving bringing back unpacking undoing edging framing rivetting observing considering musing fixing scooping out wiping down the plaster camping out going thoroughly into raising procuring sitting down leaning against bracing yourself rinsing out unblocking completing sorting sweeping sighing whistling while you work moistening becoming very keen on pulling off sticking up glueing swearing insisting tracing rubbing down brushing painting drilling plugging in switching on starting up soldering bending unfixing sharpening aiming dillydallying shortening supporting shaking before using grinding going into raptures touching up botching scraping dusting manoeuvring pulverising balancing checking moistening stopping up emptying crushing roughing out explaining shrugging fitting the handle on dividing up walking up and down tightening timing juxtaposing bringing together matching whitewashing varnishing replacing the top insulating assessing pinmng up arranging distempering hanging up starting again inserting spreading out washing looking for entering breathing hard settling in living in living Doors We protect ourselves. have to show your credentials. a break in continuity. my books. my odd copies of the Nouvelle Revue Francoise). From the triangular shape and phenomenal size of the doors in the film of Forbidden Planet.

Nothing Nothing was more beautiful in old houses than the staircases. There are pictures because there are walls. very vaguely. I no longer know that in my apartment there are walls. meaner. But I also forget the picture. Guards who it was all too easy to imagine as being armed with sawn-off shotguns (1 saw lots of American gate. I no longer know this wall is a wall. We should learn to live more on staircases. then a wall made of crazy paving. and that if there weren't any walls. We have to be able to forget there are walls. and have found no better way to do that than pictures. not only for its comfort.Species ofSpaces first there was only grass. my youth) were on duty at the one entrance Staircases We don't think enough about staircases. The rest of the house was no less remarkable. the slope of the ground began to resemble. then there middle of the grass. We could write on our walls (as we sometimes write on the fronts of houses. So we need continually to be changing. A dozen more or less similar houses were scattered through the surrounds of a private golf club. Then 1 forget there is a wall. the paving you were indoors or out. The punch line of this anecdote is as moral as it is predictable. I forget the picture. I no longer know became like a paved. I no longer look at it. movies 111 more than a support for the picture. in today's apart- is uglier. In actual fact. there would be no apartment. either the wall or the picture. its luxury even. I have put the picture on the wall so as ~o forget there was a wall. but we do it only very rarely. on fences round building sites and on the walls of prisons). At the end of the stones were set edge to edge and you found know what there there is a wall. grassy walkway. more hostile. I no is behind this wall. or else constantly moving the picture from one wall to another. what's going on behind it?' Jean Tardieu 1 put a picture longer up on a wall. while on your left. then there began to be stones in the THE APARTMENT 39 were a few more stones and it Walls 'Granted there is a wall. But how? . which opened directly on to a fairly enormous room that ended in one direction on a terrace graced by a large swimming-pool. it is nothing it from the other places yourself in what is customarily called an entrance-hall. But walls kill pictures. The course was entirely closed off. Then there appeared something like an open-work roof that was practically indissociable from the vegetation that had invaded it. but in forgetting the wall. it was already too late to know whether path. I no longer know how to look at it. The wall is no longer what delimits and defines the place where 1 live. a low wall. 1 no longer know what a wall is. to be forever putting other pictures up on the walls. that which separates where other people live. colder. ment buildings. Pictures efface walls. too. but because you had the impression that it had slid on to its hillside like a cat curling itself up in a cushion.

a novel 1 is doing the washing-up LUi.restricts Itself (if I dare use that verb for a project that will finally extend to something like four hundred pages) to describing the r~oms thus unveiled and the activities unfolding in them. in IVords. an orthogonal Latin bi-square of order 10 (the one that Euler conjectured didn't exist. . A ~bj-sq'llare? is an elaboralion on the familiar 'magic square' in which no number recurs and in which all the rows and columns add up to the same total. 3 fireplaces.a sort of equivalent to the roof that is lifted off in Le Diable boiteux. one. but the mere stating of which seems to. sitting down. A fuller description or-these devices can be found in David Bellos's Georges Perce: . from the ground floor up to the attics. In a 'bi-sqnare' each space or location is occupied by two elements instead of just one: e. or to the scene with the game of go in The Tale of Genji .ou prefer). to a board of 10 squares by 10).hence Its name.THE APARTMENT BUILDING 41 The Apartment Building Project for a novel I imagine a Parisian apartment building whose facade has been removed . the whole III accordance with formal procedures which it doesn't seem necessary to go into here in detail. None of them is working (no one has lit a fire in them.whose title is Life a User'sManual. one sitting in an armchair. in the one on the ground floor. The one on the third floor is empty. A 'queninc' is a mathematical formula invented as a formal constrain I ill the writing of poetry by Raymond Queneau . but all on the one axis.g. if .the one on the firs floor is split into two by a partition which also divides the mouldings and the ·ceiling rose. Parker and Shrikhande). Life a User's Manual. a pseudoquenine of order 10.of the items of furniture and the actions represented has something truly vertiginous about it: 3 bathrooms.so that all the rooms in the front. a man is having a shower. what's more.and it could never be exhaustive . One is a drawing by Saul Steinberg that appeared in The Art of Living (1952) and 'This obscure formula describes the complex structure underlying the multiple (to say the least) narratives of Perce's wonderful novel. The novel . The ones on the first and second flOOTS are equipped with fire-dogs.j shows a rooming-house (you can tell it's a rooming-house because next to the door there is a notice bearing the words No Vacancy) part of the facade of which has been removed.* This project has more than one source. by'] letter or the alphabet as well as a number or by two numbers drawn Irom "llldqH:'Juiellt series. of whom 1 is having a drink 1 is typing 2 are reading the newspaper. allowing you to see the interior of some twenty-three rooms (I say 'some' because you can also see through into some of the back rooms). varying greatly in size. the other stretched out on a divan 3 are asleep 1 is having a shower 1 is eating toast 1 is coming through the doorway into a room where there is a dog 10 adult individuals of the female sex. Perec's 'bi-squar e' has ten ~ocatlons In ~ach direction and thus is 'of order Ill'. in the one on the second. 6 candelabra and one Calder-style mobile 5 telephones 1 upright piano with stool 10 adult individuals of the male sex. The mere inventory . lying down. are instantly and simultaneously visible: . but which was demonstrated in 1960 by Bose. the other. a woman is taking a bath. the newspaper. of whom 1 is doing her chores 1 is sitting down 1 is holding a baby in her arms 2 are reading.me rather alluring: a polygraph of the moves made by a chess kmght (adapted..

a woman and a young girl. amidst potplants. and what I've been calling the ground floor is in fact a basement . for example) Which is to describe only the 'defacaded' part of the building. spectacles. I fancy it is summertime. Examine the drawing a bit more closely and the details of a clocks 5 chests of drawers I 2 tables desk with drawers with blotting-pad pairs of shoes 2 . (she isn't on the first floor. ashtrays. She has fallen on hard times and has been forced. The owner of the building knitting is no doubt the woman who is but. There's not a single radio set to be seen either. not only to turn her house into a rooming-house. glasses. three now dustbin. tin can. and five figures at the windows: on the second floor.the house has only two storeys). It must be something like eight 0' carpet bedside rugs or mats 9 rooms where the floor is no doubt covered with moquette I clock 3 rooms with tiled floors I in the evening (it's odd that the children aren't in bed). a porch.T Species C!f Spaces I I I THE 1 APARTMENT BUILDING 43 is having a bath is knitting is eating toast 2 bathroom upright stool chairs 11 2 1 I is sleepi ng 6 young children. once luxurious of pavement sorts of animals in any case that live in floorboards and walls) at least 38 pictures or framed engravings negro mask 29 lights (over and above the candelabra) I 10 I beds child's cot 3 divans. The remaining as a bed envelopes). 2 of whom are certainly little girls and armchairs leather briefcase dressing gown certainly 1 little boys 2 2 I I I I 1 dogs cats bear on wheels small horse on wheels toy train hanging cupboard 1 alarm clock 1 1 pair of bathroom scales pedal bin I hat hanging on a peg 1 suit hanging on a hanger 1 doll in a pram 6 rats or mice a fair number of termites jacket hanging on the back of a chair washing drying (it's not certain they are termites. on the third floor. Television hasn't been invented yet. interior staircase 8 pedestal tables 5 coffee tables 5 small bookcases I shelf full of books 2 in view of the position of the porch. and inkwell but to divide her best rooms into two. the 3 small bathroom cabinets several bottles and flasks numerous objects hard to identify (carriage clocks. on the ground floor. as I first of all thought. quarter of the drawing enables us to register a section strewn with rubbish an overflowing (old newspaper. a bird in its cage. saucers full of peanuts. one of which serves uncomfortably 4 kitchens or rather kitchenettes 7 rooms with parquet flooring 2 tatty. an old man smoking his pipe with his dog.

look for the name of the architect. A single bulb . each accepted the idea of a single meter and a bill divisible into four. The landlord refused to pay for the lighting of the said W C. try to remember what was '2 Things we ought to do systematically. or of going up to the fifth floor when you live on the second. a glass in who has somewhat at the Calder-style in general: look closely at them. Sth arrondissement old house in the I saw a W C that was shared by four tenants. homotopology have made of it. The woman doing her chores is the mother of the girl who is sitting down and it's extremely likely that the gentleman his hand and looking mobile. and none of the four tenants was willing to pay for the three others. It's obvious. for example. notice how unfamiliar things may come to seem as a result of taking staircase B instead of staircase A. there before.44 Species of Spaces novel could easily be extracted from it. the name of the is her future son-in-law. etc. or belie. perplexedly As for her neighbour. leaning on the mantelpiece.) In apartment buildings hair (three women have curlers in). the leather briefcase belongs to him and on his desk he has something that looks very much like a pile of school exercises. burning THE APARTMENT BUILDING 45 voluminous for example. look upwards.jrom time to time In the building you live in: look at what there is on See what use they go and call on your neighbours. in the case of a new building. So the W C was lit by four separate controlled by one of the four tenants. night and day for ten years would have obviously than installing a single one of these that we are at a time when the fashion is for curly been less expensive exclusive circuits. try to imagine based. four children and a cat. confirm. within on what a collective existence i might be (In an the confines of this same building. the of the accommodation. The gentleman asleep on his uncomfortable divan is no doubt a teacher. contractor. the date when it was built. or had bulbs. the party wall. ask yourself why it often says 'gas on every floor'. he seems to be slaving away at his typewriter like someone whose manuscript the publisher has been waiting for the past three weeks.

boxes into which citizens may put letters which the postal services will come to collect at set times. or. There are likewise traffic signs indicating. generally two longest sides. that even numbers isn't that much simpler. for example. in . It was would be put on one side and are there trees in the streets. The Street Contrary to the buildings. Streets parallel with the Seine are numbered starting upstream. that the street is one-way. telephone kiosks. perpendicular streets starting apply from the Seine and going away from it (these explanations is known or that silence is to be observed in the vicinity of a hospital. by limiting known as a street. And numbering decided. and it's a serious defect in them when they don't do so. The parallel alignment of two series of buildings defines what is on its houses go on driving to park. reserved for pedestrians. The street is a space bordered. they have railings round them. consists in giving a name to the street and numbers to the houses. On the other hand. and two zones. by going either along or across the street. first. by installing paid from each other. meaning that they can by rights be demolished. either permanently. that it is appropriate of the month (what on this side of the street or that according to whether the first or second fortnight 'alternate side parking'). Such is the density of motor traffic indeed that movement would be almost impossible if it had not become customary. as a character in Raymond Queneau's The Flight of Icarus very rightly asks himself. They are then said to be 'subject to alignment'. They form a straight line. known as 'blue zones'.r THE STREET 47 to Paris obviously. stopping places at which passengers can wait for buses or taxis. In addition. secondly. or else. public benches. in the event the River Seine. one might reasonably solutions have been thought suppose that analogous up for other towns). about which several books might be written. fairly equitably. When there are. that the even numbers would be on the right (and odd numbers the direction the street would be determined generally on the left) relative to of (but we know of many of the street. The zones of contact between the enable motorists who don't wish to of motor vehicles not wishing of spaces the roadway and the pavements The buildings stand one beside the other. most streets are equipped with specific amenities corresponding to various services. in our own day and our part of the world. by houses. which almost always belong to someone. The number available. into a zone reserved for motor vehicles. baskets reserved for waste paper and other detritus. the street is what separates amount of parking time. topic. either. the possibilities within parking. more generally. so as to be rebuilt in a straight line with the others. Only infrequently certain perimeters to go on driving being much greater than the number of parking have been restricted. The naming of streets is an extremely complex. the streets in principle belong to no one. known as the roadway. The most widespread. we are in odd numbers on the other (but. the street is what enables us to identify the houses. Various systems of identification exist. They are expected to form a line. which are called pavements. often even thorny. traffic lights. or else on particular occasions. A certain number of streets are reserved exclusively for pedestrians. Thus there are street lights which go on automatically as soon as the daylight begins to decline to any significant degree. clockwork mechanisms intended to receive the money necessary for a limited amount of parking time. They are divided up. and also what enables us to get from one house to another. that the said direction exceptions) by the position of the said street in relation to a fixed axis. into which numbers of people compulsively to park as cast a furtive glance as they pass. narrower obviously. 'Is 13A an even or an odd number?'). finally and especially. and thirdly.

etc. which would be a considerable impediment to the traffic. exceedingly flexible sticks. instead of spreading right across the roadway. which they would frequently tend to do if they weren't prevented. In principle. a bus stop. The woman was feeling all the vertical obstacles that stood along the pavement with the tip of her stick. these can be opened with the help of the for T-shaped keys with which the council employees responsible 2 I saw two blind people in the Rue Linne. etc. At other points. cameras keep an eye on what des Deputes. have ended up causing complex problems of synchronization that certain largest computers and certain of what are held mathematical brains are working especially dangerous. These crossings are signalled. there was only one gutter. a waste-paper bin. gutter. At certain points in the pavement.military parades. too. in a majority of built-up areas.entire sections of the roadway may be put out of bounds by means of light metal barriers that fit one inside the other. but the current system is thought to be better suited. normally free. thanks to which rainwater can flow off into the drainage system underneath the street. touched them. serve sometimes to stop motor vehicles from coming and parking on the pavements. has been prevented by means of metal posts linked by chains. others still at Alesia. to force motorists to circulate in one direction only. set into the pavements themselves. the Chatelet. There is one on top of the Chambre another always be able to get out. cleaning the streets are provided. very quickly and without ever being mistaken. In certain circumstances. just Place Edmondin the is going on. the upkeep of the roadway and pavements can be effected thanks to hydrants installed at almost every intersection. remote-controlled underneath the big tricolour. either by two parallel rows of metal studs. a post box. and the roadway. to be found in the middle of the roadway. or else by broad bands of white paint running at an angle across the whole width of the street.* indicate inside the buildings curved indentations. which. Identical posts. Should there be a shortage of rainwater. whose heads have a diameter of about twelve centimetres. may be motor should tiles At various points. One of the two was a woman of about fifty. a telephone kiosk. that there themselves which fam- to be the age's most brilliant tirelessly to resolve. it is always possible to pass from one side of the street to the other by using the pedestrian *Called 'boats' because of their shape. obviously. amber and as they have multiplied.. and guiding the young man's stick so that he. . finally . For several centuries. perpendicular to the axis of the street. to specify what the sign said obviously). They both had long. the other quite a young man. iliarly vehicles known parked as 'baleaux'.. The junction of the roadway and the pavements is known as the Rostand. extraordinarily of the world's of traffic lights of three colours (red. a road sign (she wasn't able a red light . They were walking holding one another by the arm. in continuation of the Boulevard Saint-Michel. indicating to him. At certain road junctions deemed munication between the pavements must only drive over with extreme THE STREET 49 caution. sometimes comobliges them to make long detours. the Place de la Bastille. crossings that motor vehicles . Heads of State driving past. what the obstacles consisted of: a street light.Species of Spaces the last few years. This area has a very slight incline. small earthenware set into the edge of the pavement indicate that this section of the pavement is reserved for the parking of hire vehicles. the Place Clichy. This system of studded or painted crossings no longer seems as effective as it no doubt was in the old days. and it is often necessary to duplicate it by a system green) which.

What do they sell in the shops? There shops. The cars arrive in clumps because they've been stopped by a red light further up or down the street. Look at the number plates. don't write 'etc. clothes. You still haven't looked at anything.Species of Spaces Force yourself to see more flatly. traffic signs. Anything worthy of note going on. even if that seems grotesque. Note the absence of taxis precisely when there seem to be a lot of people waiting for them. what it's made of.* newspaper the date: 15 May 1973 the weather: set fair Note down what you can see. the driver of a vehicle is subjected order to go and buy a hundred parks by means of a certain amount of toing and froing switches off the engine withdraws extricates the key. device a baker's. . most common. what is most obvious. graffiti. posters. Oh yes. shop signs. Ask yourself where the locals do winds up the left-hand locks it checks that the left-hand if not: opens it their shopping. You don't know how to see. two. Why did you choose this one? Because you know it. How many cafes are there? One. THE STREET 3 Practical exercises Observe the street. What sort of cars? The buildings: note that they're on the comfortable. Describe the number grams of fruit jelly: of operations in to when he parks merely with ownership. because it sells cigarettes. because it's in the sun. The people in the street. Take your time. The cars. The street: try to describe the street. four. three. You must set about it more slowly. setting off a first anti-theft himself from the vehicle front window rear door is locked. out what you've long ago picked out. most colourless. Do you know how to see what's worthy of note? Is there anything that strikes you? Nothing strikes you. almost stupidly. The cafes. Distinguish between the cars registered system perhaps. Distinguish residential from official buildings. Don't say. The shops. Make an effort to exhaust the subject. there's kiosks. well-heeled are no food side. you've merely picked raises the handle inside slams the door checks it's locked securely *The sturdy columns that carry posters advertising theatrical and other entertainments. The fashion is for heels that are too high. what it's used for. deduce the obvious facts: the obsession for example. Decipher a bit ofthe town. discarded handouts. Note down the place: the terrace of a cafe near the junction the Rue de Bac and the Boulevard Saint-Germain the time: seven 0' clock in the evening of in Paris and the rest. The other shops: antique shops. etc. Beauty of the women. from time to time. Force yourself to write down what is of no interest. or pointless.'. Apply yourself. or stupid. Read what's written in the street: Morris columns. with some concern for Detect a rhythm: the passing of cars. hi-fi. Count the cars.

You can't see any birds . for the briefest of moments. if not.) The people in the streets: where are they coming from? Where are they going to? Who are they? People in a hurry. where the Rue de Bac meets the Boulevard Saint-Germain. replace the people by cows and. the shape of the tickets. Editions Gallimard.. pavements . Find examples. Try to classify the people: those who live locally and those who don't live locally. There don't seem to be any tourists. in fact. recommences the sequence of operations already carried out on the left. that you are in a strange town or. A Land Rover that seems to be equipped for crossing the Sahara (in spite of yourself. and by what criteria? Remember that the trajectory of a Paris bus intra muros is defined by a two-figure number the first figure of which describes the central and the second the peripheral terminus. (Before.circles the car.checks that the right-hand rear door is locked. by whom Perec would like to have been published.Species of Spaces THE STREET 53 . Wax sentimental over the memory of buses that had a platform at the back. though he never was. Carryon Until the scene becomes improbable until you have the impression. Wait. the opposite is what you should be doing).hand rear door winds up the right-hand front window shuts the right-hand front door locks it before walking away. What are the local attractions? Salomon Bernard's house? The church of St Thomas Aquinas? No 5. looks all around him as if to make sure the car is still there and that no one will come and take it away. People going slowly. which was Queneau's favourite. Note that the trees are a long way off (on the Boulevard SaintGermain and the Boulevard Raspail). Make torrential rain fall. the wretched exceptions. until the whole place becomes strange. towering a hundred metres above the roofs of the buildings! Or again: strive to picture to yourself. You might see a cat slip underneath a car. with a 3 from the Gare de l'Est. better still. you're only noting the untoward. the ticket collector with his little machine hooked on to his belt. a street. that there are no cinemas or theatres. with the greatest possible *The address of the largest and most glamorous of French publishing houses. the peculiar. but it doesn't happen. they used letters: the S. has become the 84. or Tex Avery's herculean mouse. Rue Sebastien-Bettin?" Time passes. that there are no building sites to be seen. Its circuits: why do the buses go from this place to that? Who chooses the routes. make King Kong appear. and anyway the area isn't especially touristy. Decipher a bit of the town. Dogs: they're the only animals to be seen. find exceptions: all the buses whose number begins with a 2 start from the Gare St-Lazare. if need be.yet you know there are birds and can't hear them either. and you no longer even know that this is what is called a town. A dog. until you can no longer understand what is happening or is not happening. of an uncommon breed (Afghan hound? saluki?). Drink your beer. make grass grow. checks that the boot is locked properly . All the buses whose number ends in a 2 terminate roughly speaking in the ifith arrondissement or in Boulogne. Parcels. that most of the houses seem to have obeyed the regulations so far as renovation is concerned. Nothing is happening. The season doesn't lend itself to it. smash everything.. . buildings. Prudent people who've taken their macs.

I drink it allowing the sugar to melt in my mouth. often sometimes I go back into a cafe. beneath the network of streets. a writing pad. an arcade). I pretend to be writing a letter I write slowly. I order a coffee I arrange my packet of cigarettes. I have also had occasion to slip into these envelopes various items capable later on of serving as evidence: Metro tickets.the posters. to be reflecting. without which no life would be possible on the surface. took photographs that I then slipped. [ check the punctuation marks I stare attentively at a small notice. the gypsum. a blind. I slip them into an envelope that I seal with wax. I sit near the door. etc.. water mains. I trace. sometimes the time. the marl and the soft chalk. the Soissons sands and lignites. the waitress is cleaning the coffee machine I am thinking of you you are walking in your street. in Paris. I have got a man or woman photographer friend to go with me to the places I was describing who. and in a general way. all the details that attract my eye. as if I had a decision to make At the top and to the right of the sheet of paper. the plastic clay. I do my best to describe the houses. where I had either lived or else was attached to by particular memories. Underneath. squares. Sitting in a cafe or walking in the street. I draw each letter.. express letter tubes). you've turned up your foxfur collar. or cinema tickets. the hexagonal yellow ashtray (in actual fact. gas. a box of matches. One of these descriptions is written on the spot and is meant to be as neutral as possible. the hard chalk.. sometimes the place. whether events that have taken place there. the rough limestone. Once these descriptions are finished. like the R. the lines of the Metro. the lacustrian Saint-Ouen limestone. just underneath. resuscitate the eocene: the limestone. in the cutoff corners of which semi-circular dents have been made where cigarettes can be rested) . it's an equilateral triangle. the Beauchamp sands.ussians and Poles when they drink tea) T pretend to be preoccupied. like the people of the North. On several occasions. into the corresponding envelopes. ) Outside there's a bit of sunlight the cafe is nearly empty two renovators' men are having a rum at the bar. you're smiling. ) 4 Or else: Rough draji 0/ a letter Places (Notes on a work in progress) In 1969. for example. circuses. the price-list for ice-creams. the owner is dozing behind his till. as slowly as I can. each accent. or people I have met there. or as indicated by me. at a piece of ironwork. very slowly. it's wintertime. The other description is written somewhere other than the place itself. the invisible underground proliferation of conduits (electricity. I then do my best to describe it from memory. (.54 Species ofSpaces THE STREET 55 precision. to evoke all the memories that come to me concerning it. either freely. 5 I think of you. telephone lines. notebook and pen in hand. without looking at them (with a single exception). or bar slips. and remote c· . I have undertaken to write a description of two of these places each month. the shops and the people that I come across. the tangle of sewers. I inscribe the date. or handouts. twelve places (streets. my felt-pen on the fake marble table I spend a long time stirring my cup of coffee with the teaspoon (yet I don't put any sugar in my coffee. I chose.

that for most of a town's inhabitants. the small portion of a town dependent on a police station. if not an habitue then at least a regular (you shake hands with the patron or the waitress). so I in fact skipped 1973. a quartier or fourth part of an arrondissement.T I 56 Species of Spaces I begin thes descriptions over again each year. to say the same thing in the form of a truism. this time order 12*)~ first. have you? You're in which neighbourhood now? There's something amorphous about the neighbourhood really: a sort of parish or. This too is self-evident. 'of order 12' means simply a 12 X 12 square as opposed to one 10 X 10. Agreed. not the area where we work: places of residence and places of work hardly ever coincide. and of my or The Neighbourhood 1 The neighbourhood. ta1cing care. strictly speaking. until all the places have been described twice twelve times. 'that is. . the chemist. It still needs to be made clear. but it has countless consequences_ writing. is nothing other than the record of a threefold experience of ageing: of the places themselves. will thus last for twelve years. the tobacconist who stays open on Sundays. Obviously.see the note on P-40. never to describe the same pair of pla es in the same month. second. I don't fall behind again) of the 288 texts issuing from this experiment. of my memories. the everything for the home. What is a neighbourhood? D'you live in the neighbourhood? You from the neighbourhood? Moved neighbourhoods. there are the neighbours. mos of these places appear). More generally: that portion of the town you can get around easily in on foot or.(if. thanks to an algorithm I have already referred to (orthogonal Latin bi-square. This UJ\demking. ill effect. the tradespeople. the post office. as it happens. always go to the 'The same schema as Perec used for Life: A User's Manual . you could cultivate these habits. the cafe where you are.. The neighbourhood is what we call the area where we reside. not so dissimilar in principle from a 'time capsule. that part of the town you don't need to go to. I shall then know whether it was worth the effo'rt. precisely because you're already there.What I hope for from it. however. the dairy. to describe each of these places in a diffetenl month of the year. and only in Ig81 shall T be in possession. That seems to go without saying. this has the corollary that the neighbourhood is also that portion of the town in which you don't work. I was too taken up last year by the filming of' n Homme qui dort' (in which. Neighbourhood life This is a very big word. the locals.

a way of dressing up commercialism.lace Clichy. all the Jews in the Rue des Rosiers. or put on street theatre. I'd read by the Parc Monceau. as they say. I'd listen to music i? the P. couldn't even give the illusion of being a life. . all the glassware shops in the Rue de Paradis. truth to tell. I have nothing against the act of moving.). all the publishers in Saint-SuIpice. the countryside. a pretext for a few limp handshakes (morning Madame Chamissac. I haven't had time to get properly used to one. it still wouldn't make a life. Bring the neighbourhood alive. open an account at the ironmonger's. a packet of cigarettes. making them fight. morning Mademoiselle Jeanne). I'd make love at the Poterne des Peupliers. go and buy the evening paper. Is that any more foolish. It would create a familiar space. and trying in vain to gather yourself together there. Weld the people of a street or a group of streets together by something more than a mere conmvance: by making demands on them. all the tailors in the Rue du Sentier. call the pharmacist by her first name. a packet of soap powder.). why not have five or six rooms dotted about Paris? I'd go and sleep in Denfert. It's true that in recent years I've changed neighbourhoods quite a few times. a kilo of cherries. Why not set a higher value on dispersal? Instead of living in just one place. all the blacks in Harlem? Death of the neighbourhood This too is a very big word (many other things are dying after all: towns. Relative to my dwelling-place. all the students in the Latin Quarter. but it wouldn't work. From all of the foregoing I can draw the. leave your parcels at the epicerie. I'd write in the Place Voltaire. It's only by chance that some of my friends live in the same neighbourhood as r do. you could start an orchestra.* I d eat III the Rue de la Tombe-Issoire. 59 somewhat eccentric. when all's said and done.58 Species of Spaces THE NEIGHBOURHOOD same butcher's. quite the reverse. my main centres of interest are *A leafy spot in the 13th arrondissement. etc. than putting all the furniture shops in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. all the doctors in Harley Street. would give rise to an itinerary (leave home. r make little use of my neighbourhood. morning Monsieur Fernand. but that would only ever be putting a mawkish face on necessity. etc. etc. entrust your cat to the woman who sells newspapers. with its ghastly advertisements for the dry cleaner's on the corner. Obviously. What I miss above all is the neighbourhood cinema. less than satisfying conclusion that I have only a very approximate idea of what a neighbourhood is.

Remember that a 'boulevard' where the old ramparts Remember. had been. not to rem am ifith arrondissement. Saint-Cloud. you're in Paris. lying on their backs.THE TOWN 61 Remember. that for a long time Auteuil was m the country. with their little paws in the air. or else force yourself to talk about it as simply as possible. or said to be ugly? What's beautiful and what's ugly in a town? How do you get to know a town? How do you get to know your town? Method: you must either give up talking of the town. there..' Raymond Queneau of the town.what i~ was.:.. That's the reason why the smart districts are in the West in Paris (the the town. 2 The wind comes off the sea: nauseous town smells are driven towards the East in Europe. as It happens. First. that it was fortified. Traffic arteries. are far more too. Annecy or Saintused to be The Town Nazaire. Get rid of all preconceived ideas. Urban sprawl. insti- as suburbs. obviously. . it's Remember that if they said Saint-Germain-des-Pres. if they have three dis-its ..) and London (the West End). Neuilly. Strangers. Look at w hat happens when the town stops. 3 A town: stone. about the town. make an inventory of what you can see. If they have two digits. tutions. Don't be too hasty in trying to find a definition far too big and there's every chance of getting it wrong. What is the heart of a town? The soul of a town? Why is a town said to be beautiful. towards the West in America. was originally there were pres. For example (1'v6 already touched on this subject ill eonnection with stree~). List what you're sure of. you're outside Paris (it isn't. Faubourg Saint-Derris.€: absolutely foolproof method for telling whether you're to Paris ot outside Pa!:isconsists of looking at the numbers of the buses. Remember. more the equivalent of the Bois de Boulogne. familiarly. Remember. they recommended the parents to go and spend a few days in Aute~il to ~:reathe the goed country air (there's still a dairy in Auteuil. it's because 1 'The roofs of Paris. which persists in calling itself 'Auteuil Fanu'). Saint-Antoine. but it wasn't really the town all the same). Up until the middle of the 19th century. between what is the town and what isn't the town. Stop . Remember Faubourg calling itself a 'faubourg' Faubourg Saint-Honore). Crowds. Recognize that suburbs have a strong tendency . Concern youl'self with what divides the town from what isn't. that the Arc de Triomphe was built m the country (it wasn't really the country. or fields. that Saint-Denis. etc. Ant-hills? asphalt. Take good note that the town hasn't always been . alas. but in principle it ought to be). when doctors saw that a child had a bit too much pallor. mi. . a walk planted with trees which circled the town and usually occupied the space indeed. sizeable towns than that everything Bagnolet and Aubervilliers Poitiers. for example. and in the East in New York (the East Side). Draw up elementary distinctions: for example. concrete. Megalopolises. outside the town (Faubourg Saint-Germain. monuments. too. as foolproof as all that.

I don't know all the streets of Paris. We were born in towns. but you don't dare. and we have no other. . find a route that would cross 'Paris from one side to the other taking only streets beginning with the letter C. the places you've been strongly recommended to go and see. The town is there. I like my town. as to whether it was possible to walk round the city of KoiligSberg. systematic itinerary. to loaf. I know the itineraries of the buses pretty well. celebrated old puzale. or else the 5 Foreign towns You know how to get from the station. on the verge of tears almost if you see Le Monde on a news stand. but I can't say exactly what I like about it. you stride. You'd like to be central. I know where the railway stations are. You'd love to stroll about. you're afraid of getting lost. a few bridges. or the air terminal. You don't really know what to look at. the ButtesChaumont and the Butte-aux-Cailles. Like a lot of other towns. There's nothing inhuman in a town. You go and see the paintings and the churches. for example. I don't think it's the smell. You're moved almost if you come across the Air France office. It's our space. you don't know how to drift aimlessly. I love passing through a place I haven't seen for a long time. Montparnasse. the Colline de Chaillot. etc. which had seven bridges. Numerous locations have precise memories attached to them: houses where friends once lived that I've lost touch with. not really haphazardly. square in which I read Balzac's La Peau de Chagrin while keeping an eye on my little niece as she played. Montmartre. At the time when France was called Gaul. unless it's our own humanity. but trying to let myselfbe carried along. Paris was built in the immediate proximity of seven hills. forget what the town planners and sociologists have said. You locate the museums the parks. I can identify the churches and other monuments without too much difficulty. You study the map of the town with care. I have numerous landmarks to help me. I'm too accustomed to the monuments to want to look at them. There's something frightening in the very idea of the town. I can explain the route I want to take to a taxi-driver. There's nowhere that lets itself be attached to a memory. the world turned to stone .62 Species a/Spaces THE TOWN 63 thinking in ready-made terms.that you can only go on endlessly piling up unanswerable questions. Sometimes by taking the first bus that stops (you can no longer get on buses when they're moving). cafe terraces. Leonhard Euler. an emotion. I'd find it hard to be lost in Paris. Montsouris. Or else by preparing a careful. without any precise goal. They are: the Mont Valerien. It's in towns that we breathe. The solution was found in '736 by the great Swiss mathematician. the Montagne SainteGenevieve. You hope that it isn't too far. It's the capital of France. crossing each bridge once and no bridge twice. to your hotel. If I had the time. We shall never be able to explain or justify the town. Obviously. or else a cafe in which I played pinball for six hours at a stretch (for an original outlay of a single 20-centimes coin). Even if I wanted to. I like certain lights. the mineral universe. or at random. you get the impression you can fasten only on to tragic or despairing images of it . We grew up in towns. I nearly always know in which direction I need to go on the Metro. it's to go from one town to another town. The names of the streets are hardly ever alien to me.Metropolis. 4 My town I live in Paris. Sometimes for a whole afternoon. You don't even walk really. Paris was called Lutetia. When we catch the train. a *This refers to a. the characteristics of each district are familiar. I like walking in Paris. But I always have some idea of where they're to be found. I'd like to think up and solve problems analogous to the one about the bridges of Komgsberg'* or.

If no policeman is to be found in the vicinity. Spankerfel resdi THE TOWN face. ask for information in a shop. P. This recommendation must be borne in mind when boarding a train or omnibus. L. the official who checks the tickets indicates the correct platform. practically without landmarks: you don't know how long it takes to get from one place to another. de Meric (surgeon). the ceramic tiles on a facade m Saarbrucken. Recommended are doctors. the poor areas of the town and out-of-the-way streets. Address a stranger only in cases of absolute necessity. 6 On tourism 'As [or seeing the town. Naumann. even for an indefatigable di Nominatore a from your hotel (at you've been taking of the you start to take possession town. You locate taurants.. Time-table: two weeks are barely sufficient. A telegraph-board indicates the destination of the 'next train'. though frequently clifficuh to distinguish from the surroundiog advertisements. H. doctor at the French Hospital. You look with interest at a complete set of monkey wrenches (you've got two hours to waste and you walk for two hours. for tbe question is probably the prelude to a theft or confidence trick. taverns. A round the TVorld in Eighty Days Rather edition) than visit London. The remainder of the country may be visited all year round..guiding the ferry that crosses it .m. Davenport (American). until around midnight · . Coffin (American). The memory found almost of our own indecision. Goldsmith (American). The season. It is now that Parliament is sitting. June and July. ~ ·. As the stoppages are extremely brief. the width of the Rhine at Basle. At the bottom of the first flight of stairs.30 a. The names of the stations are called out by the porters. It's that of Ludwig Nominatore. The Metropolitan Railways . and read the irreplaceable supplied by Baedeker (1907 . the greatest artistes in the world are performing at the Opera and the picture exhibitions are open.Species of Spaces tearooms. It will be noted that it is customary for pedestrians to keep to the right in crowded streets. our gaze which didn't towards and that affecting: an almost empty street lined with large plane tre~s (were they planes?) in Belgrade. L. and are always painted at different parts of the platform and on the lamps and benches. you find out that the statue of Ludwig (the celebrated good half-hour the end of Prince Adalbert Spankerfel brewer) is only three minutes Street) whereas to get there. doctor at the Italian Hospital. he being of thc English race that makes its servants visit the countries thcy pass through.. and do not reply to any question from a passer-by. Pharmacies (no French pharmacy). J. are an important means of effecting long journeys in London. Dardenne. as a result you're always The day horribly ahead of time).. with the exception of the mountains. and the rope . We often preserve the memory of an indefinable these towns we've merely know what to turn brushed charm from indeed anything against. One buys a ticket at the booking-office and descends to the railway. that never entered his head. suspension the sloping streets in Edinburgh. Vintras. You go past a statue. The trains run on the inner belt from 5. in the chimney information corner. H. Dentists: A.the exact term for it would be the cable .cunings bordered by high walls · . Baranoff. Avoid also. A. as well as when alighting.' Jules Verne. while the tickets themselves are marked with a large red '0' or 'I' (for 'outer' or 'inner' line of rails).. H. especially in French. The foreigner should remain constantly on his guard and above all keep careful watch on his purse and his timepiece. They pass for the most part a short distance below the surface of the ground. and the terminus towards which the train is travelling is also generally placarded on the front of the locomotive. no time should be lost either in taking seats or in alighting. stay at horne. that is the months of May. Doctors. in the evenings. doctor to the French Embassy and the French Hospital. the celebrated brewer. not yet invested. milk-bars. That doesn't mean you start to inhabit it.. in tunnels or. the aristocracy are at their town-residences. etc. Pierrepoint (American). K. everywhere in short where there is a crowd. Two days may be enough to start to get acclimatized.. why should you be drawn more particularly by this rather than that? A neutral space. A. cafeterias. is the most favourable time of year for visiting London. our hesitant footsteps.

the light will be stored.8 grand spectacle.an abundance of fake gemstones . with a dense crowd of brilliant horsemen and H larue Dumber or equipages. gardellS.m. and their radiance will light the streets. rr one is in the vicinity of London Bridge. The Seine filtered and warm .valwa.66 Species of Spaces THE TOWN traveller content merely with a superficial visit. a turn may betaken in Regent treei ·or Hyde Park. such as sugar. for . in the mornings and afternoons one can go to visit the churches. Gustave Flaubert. the flesh of certain molluscs and Bologna phosphorus. the two halves try and work an itinerary that would enable capital one after the other.the houses lit up . the excursion to Gravesend is especially recommended. A methodical distribution of the time "villgre!uly Facilitate the task. s animated.. Drafts for the final plan of Bouvard and Pecuchet 7 Exercises Describe the operations you effect when you catch the Metro with as Baedeker for the London made by the Underground Surrealists for the same meticulousness in 1907.. The fronts of the houses will be made to be daubed with this phosphorescent substance. the ships aniving or departing and the enormous traffic ill the docks. Try and imagine you to take every bus ill the what Paris will become: Paris will become a winter garden. For those wishing to enjo r . there are bodies that have this property. Reconsider some of the proposals embellishing the town: The obelisk in the Concorde: round of the right size on the summit The Tour Saint-Jacques: The lion of Belfort: West The Pantheon: 50 centimetres By using maps and the appropriate have it off and put a steel feather bend it slightly it gnawing a bone and turned to the by out slice it vertically and separate diagrams. from 5 to 7 p. to have a reasonably clear idea of London and its environs. unique in the world. and walk in the park 01' ihe botanical and zoological. In the afterncon. one should take advantage of every available moment to visit the port and its environs.a profusion of gilding . many of which remain open all day. before dinner. espaliered fruit trees on the boulevard.

but 1 didn't learn anything surrounding their second home. or less indifferent. I've sometimes chanced to read in books that the country was populated by peasants. There are. rhythms and vocabulary and my vocabulary are "The formula by which quadratic equations were taught in French schools. as I've already said. My habits. hoeing or treading out. T am a man of the towns. I like the country (I like ~he town too. the network of streets. rotating crops. T was born. before regaining if they have the courage. that ~ =b 2 gives salt plus water. nothing shocks me. was in February the town. and almost as much comfort. the operations concealed beneath these verbs are more exotic than those that preside. my rhythms the habits. but in the same way that I might be surprised or shocked by. marling. or see animals you're hardly in the habit of seeing in you play Scrabble the towns. and sometimes as much peace and quiet. to nature. manuring. For me. for me they are impracticable. the dull grey of the facades stretching out of The Countryside sight. and that their work consisted. It has to be admitted that you often have more room there than ill the town. bordering a part of the motorways they take on Friday evenings when they go there. among other things. I might 1 learnt be and say that everything leaves me more surprises me. yet it is. The town .* that acid plus base about the country. if I remember rightly. harrowing. of course. but it has been so and will be so from now on. over the servicing of a central heating all that well informed. vines as far as the eye can see. the extreme difficulty we have when we want to look at the back of our own neck or the unjustifiable existence of the sinuses (frontal 1 I don't have a lot to say concerning the country: the country doesn't exist. on Sunday afternoons. however. It shouldn't be. these are things that may surprise or shock me. 1 grew up and I have lived ill towns. concrete. the country is a decorative space or maxillary). they will be hymning 1973. It might not have been so. that peasants got up and went to bed with the sun. for example. you breathe more easily. The only things I can know are the little packets from Vilmorin or Truffaut. What's more. Like everyone else. I'm very attached). I've been to the country on several occasions (the last time. Toul and Verdun -4ac. the meadows planted with clover and of these spaces. I'm at home there: asphalt. articles about the other party games. tVilmorin and Truffaut are well-known seed merchants in Paris. lots of Metz.f the renovated farmhouses where the yokes of the oxen have become wall-hangings and grain measures have become waste-paper to which in the tree. throughout the return or else I've forgotten everything I was taught.THE COUNTRYSIDE 69 belongs to me. But I know nothing boiler. and a few metres of which they will pass through. where. dressing. I'm not hard to please). It's far too late to change anything. compassionate raising of young calves and a nostalgia baskets (I have one. an area in which I'm not the whole of the rest of the week. railings. conventional everything things constituted In the country. to be enough The country for cherries eaten sitting is a foreign land. in actual fact. in liming. But none of this seems to me to base any pertinent difference on. I like bemg in the country: you sometimes YOIl eat country bread. For most people of my kind. spudding. the great yellow fields furrowed by gleaming machines. the copses. it was very cold). for example. at school and 1 still know that the Three Sees. you light a fire in the hearth. it's an illusion. of a townsman.

We stay in the same neighbourhood. you'd have been at school with the postman. things have stayed as they were. even if it's only the position of our furniture. We haven't asked ourselves why it was there and not somewhere else. and change towns. You'd know each one of the trees in your orchard. . You'd go through the fields in ankle boots carrying a stick with a ferrule which you'd use to decapitate the long grasses. we miss it if we change. plant. but at ease almost everywhere. in a town in that country. we were as well off there as over the road. in a street in that neighbourhood. we've stayed where we were. You'd go with the children to pick blackberries along the sunken lanes. Every Wednesday. it was too late. You'd watch out for the 7 o'clock bus to come past. underneath the hundred-year-old elm tree. Of Movement We live somewhere: in a country. your 'home': to belong completely in your village. you'd know everyone and everyone's stories. why it was like this and not otherwise. You'd wait for the seasons to come round. or of Poitou. until you almost want to believe it. you'd send them off to hunt for snails. Every Monday. the trains haven't been stopping for several years now and a bus service has replaced them. you'd know the places where there are still crayfish. in an apartment in that building. You'd know that the schoolmaster's honey is better than the station-master's (no. to carve the place that will be yours out of space. opposite the church. millimetre by millimetre. and change countries. But we haven't done so. Then. to live in hotels and change them frequently. I 3 Nostalgic (and false) alternative: To put down roots.T 70 Species if Spaces I I I THE COUNTR YSIDE 71 2 Village utopia For a start. and build. our habits were formed. to feel at home nowhere. to speak and read anyone of four or five languages. not too much though). Moving house is quite a business. You'd know whether it was going to rain by looking at the shape of the clouds above the hill. only a level-crossing keeper. to rediscover or fashion your roots. to keep nothing. You'd play cards with the gamekeeper. We should long ago have got into the habit of moving about. After all. you'd go with them to the mushrooms. We began to think we were well off where we were. You'd be able to recognize birds by their song. you'd remember the time when the garageman shod horses (pile it on a bit. without it being too much trouble. You'd go and fetch your wood from the communal woodlands. Of course. there wouldn't be a station-master any longer. in a building in that street. Madame Blaise would come and wash. We have difficulty changing. knowing you're a true inhabitant of the Cevennes. in a neighbourhood in that town. but there would still be a level-crossing that hasn't yet been automated). the charcutier from Dampierre would toot in front of your house bringing you your andouillettes. appropriate. You'd like to go and sit on the village bench. of moving about freely. obviously. Or else to own only the clothes you stand up in.

The Country 1 Frontiers Countries are divided from one another by frontiers. It wasn't Jordan I would have touched in any case. The .inn from which you could take in this panorama was much frequented. [arn ines. the b1g field of mustard you could see when leaving the main road. (Note what remains identical: the shape ofthe houses?the shape ofthe fields?the faces?the 'Shell' emblems at the filling stations. etc. Those who arrived a few days before you did look down on you. the baker's shops no longer look altogether like the thing we were calling a baker's shop just a short while earlier. something that was West Germany.. by getting underneath the barbed wire. I was stopped by the people I was with: it seems it had been mined. but a piece of nothing. with the people from your corner. it was a vast grey.West German . the loaves are no longer the same shape. 72 Species of Spaces Something extremely serious needs to happen for us to agree to move: wars. as a recent photographic exhibition showed.r with nostalgia your little village. You reme~be. from Tierra del Fuego to Scandinavia and from Japan to Greenland. in Jerusalem.. sullen expanse with a few clumps of trees. made material by a wooden barrier which as it happens is never really on the line it purports to represent. . the 'Coca-Cola'signs that are almost identical.In the event. the same earth. I took in at a single glance. at Hof in Bavaria. the rules of the road [with a few variations J. something that was East Germany and something that was Czechoslovakia. We find it hard to get acclimatized. I tried to set foot in Jordan. is enough to change everything. the gauge on the railways [with the exception of Spain]. your little river.) In 1952. but a few dozen or hundreds of metres this side or that of it. epidemics.. of no man's land... but the road is no longer quite the same. even the landscape. In October 1970. as they say. the writing on the road signs changes. Crossing a frontier is quite an emotive thing to do: an imaginary limit. You stay in your own small corner. It's the same air. there are no longer the same cigarette packets lying around on the ground.

where over towards Kasserine. to add where my lines. +Tho sardonic point being that nincler is a French verb meaning 'to level off'. *The reference is to t he celebrated Jean Renoir film. special. and between 7° 11' of longitude west and SO 10' of longitude east. are the object of constant concern on the part of the authorities. a small hill.)* Tiny morsels of space have been fought over. 74 Species of Spaces someFor roughly 2.576 square kilometres. needles of rock. Its surface area is 528. the corner of a street. this territory maritime space constituting French 'territorial The entire surface area of the national territory an 'air space'. Millions The defence. which was still in operation. the Country. in Tunisia. I don't think I have anything country is concerned. Thousands of men are dead because they didn't manage to cross them. a few yards of seaside.640 kilometres. the Hexagon) is a state in Western Europe corresponding in large part to Cisalpine Gaul. terrestrial. a neutral country. not far from the ruins of Sbeitla. is surmounted simple row of barbed wire. Death has come for millions of men from a slight difference in level between two points less than a hundred metres apart: they fought Army in the for weeks to capture or recapture Hill 532. the Unoccupied Zone.in German. (One of the commanders-in-chief of the French 1914-18 war was called General Nivellet. making (il) nivelle the third person singular of the present tense. I was told. A few hundred metres away. . integrity and security of these three spaces. a peaceful forest: on the far side was Switzerland.) 2 My country The national territory (the Motherland . Vaterland -.. The Morice Line. I saw the frontier with Algeria: a is bordered waters'. Frontiers passed just behind it. or spatial. of men are dead because of these by are lines. maritime and aerial. bits of hillside. France. Survival then depended simply on crossing a river. the Nation. THE COUNTRY 75 by a In May 1961. It is contained between 42° 20' and 51° 5' of latitude north. (La Grande Illusion: they didn't fire at escaped prisoners once they were over the frontier. you could see a ruined farm that was in Algeria.

Asia and Africa. the spot where Gavrilo Princip was standing when he shot at Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria and Duchess Sophia of Hohenberg. like the Repertoire archeologique du Departement du Tarn. Commercy' in a bed-and-breakfast in Inverness. 1865. far from its presumed place of origin. 123PP. compiled by Mr H. just opposite the Simic Brothers' bar on 28 June 1914. in the sitting-room of a family pension Europe. Travelling. Or else. to see. for example a box made out of seashells bearing the words 'Souvenir of Dinard' in a chalet in the Black Forest. quarto.15 a. we've been discovered! (an Indian. the Bay of Naples. Mobile). or a perfectly commonplace one. You could set yourself to follow a given degree of latitude (Jules Verne. a perfectly ugly object. The Testament if an Eccentric) or by linking the passage from one state to the next to the existence of two towns of the same name (Michel Butor. The world is big. rather. To see something in reality that had long been an image in an old dictionary: a geyser. Old Continent The surprise and disappointment of travelling. The illusion of having overcome distance. Paris. or to pass through all the United States of America either in alphabetical order (Jules Verne. Aeroplanes crisscross it at all times and in all directions. To be far away. New Continent Hey guys.. The Children of Captain Grant). or a perfectly improbable one. Crozes. of having erased time. on the corner of Franz-Josef Street and the Appel Quay in Sarajevo. . such as a coathanger stamped 'Hotel Saint-Vincent.m. catching sight of Christopher Columbus). a waterfall. at 11.Europe The World One of the five parts of the world.

what you didn't expect. over time. tiny incursions into excitements. a tiny dam across a Scottish loch. and the gleaming runways of airports. no longer as a journey having constantly to be remade. what you didn't imagine. quests congealed in a mawkish haze a few details of which will remain in our memory: out beyond the railway stations and the roads. is a form of writing. small. the coolness of a covered gallery in the souk at Sfax. fat men on the terrace of a cafe in the outskirts . What can we know of the world? What quantity eyes hope to take in between square centimetres touched? To cover the world. not as the one pretext nor as the illusion of a conquest. nor even the foreign necessarily. incidental our birth and our death? How many of Planet Earth will the soles of our shoes have will only ever improbable be to know a few square metres of it. out beyond the panoramas too long anticipated and discovered too late.T ! Species a/Spaces in Regensburg isbonne). a few acres. disembodied vestiges. To see what you have always dreamed of seeing. irreducible. not as a race without end. THE WORLD 79 in the Eure. of something clear and closer to us: of the world. bends around six in the evening. to cross it in every direction. to discover what you've never seen. or else a small house on the way out of Avignon. And with these. the sense you always dreamed of seeing? The Great Pyramids? The portrait of Melancthon by Cranach? Marx's grave? Freud's grave? Bokhara and Samarkand? The hat worn by Katharine Hepburn in Sylvia Scarlet? (One day. on my way from Forbach to Metz. the outline of trees on top of a hill near Saarbrucken. with a wooden lattice door once painted green. tangible. neither the grandiose nor the impressive. has come to be listed among the various wonders and surprises of the world. the familiar rediscovered. But how to give examples? Not what. the hairpin of a road near Corvol-l'Orgueilleux. rather. but as the rediscovery to be met. it will be three children perhaps running along a bright white road. of space can our of General Eble in Saint-Jean- of the world's concreteness. But what have (better known in France under the name of Ratmain street of Brionne. the perceiving that the earth that of a meaning. and the narrow strips of land illuminated for a brief moment by an overnight express. a fraternal space . a geography of which we had forgotten we ourselves are the authors. two days before Christmas. But rather the reverse.. a challenge having constantly for a despairing acquisitiveness. the silhouetted four uproarious of Naples. I made a detour to go and see the birthplace Rohrbach. and the accumulations of stones and the accumulations of works of art.) Or else.. immediate.

it does all that needs to be done for railway lines to meet well short of infinity. for to the sign made on purpose was added the sign fallen there by chance).slightly askew in the corniche on the pediment of a mausoleum. Our field of vision reveals a limited space. and doesn't extend very far up or down. we can see there's an up. we can see there's a down. it had transformed them into signs of themselves. Space is when it makes an angle.. we can manage to see the end of our nose.Space · . of signs repeated an innumerable number of times. brakes being suddenly applied on tarmac. Space is what arrests our gaze. then in another. Our gazetravels through space and gives us the illusion of relief and distance. we don't even manage to see completely everything there is around us. we have to twist our bodies round to see properly what was behind us. and had added them to the series of signs deliberately made by whoever wanted to make a sign). it doesn't go off in all directions. an in front and a behind. If we turn our head in one direction. it sees only what it meets. always the same and always in some way different. a ridge raised by the wind on the coagulated sand of the desert. . There's nothing ectoplasmic about space. the badly inked downstroke of the letter R that in a copy of an evening paper had met with a flaw in the fibres of the newsprint. a sequence of streaks on a screen during a magnetic storm (the series of signs multiplied itself into the series of signs of signs. which ends very quickly to left and right.. if we raise our eyes. bricks. when we have to turn for it to start off again. when it stops. Cosmicomics We use our eyes for seeing. the curve of a statistical graph. the streaks of fire against a wall of schist.. a chromosome . an angle. If we squint.something vaguely circular. a left and a right. it is not impossible . That is how we construct space. On Straight Lines If I mend at this rate. so that the world and space seemed to be the mirror one of the other both minutely storied in hieroglyphs and ideograms. a near and a far. one scratch out of eight hundred thousand on the creosoted wall between two docks in Melbourne. if we lower them. with an up and a down. it carries a very long way. But if it meets with nothing. the four hundred and twenty-seventh groove . a vanishing point.. the arrangement of the eyes in the feathers of the peacock (living in the midst of signs had very slowly brought us to see as so many signs the innumerable things that had at first been there without indicating anything but their own presence.. but I may arrive hereafter at the excellency of going on even thus: which is a line drawn as straight as I could draw it by a writing-master's ruler . and each of them could equally well be or not be a sign: a calcareous concretion on basalt. When nothing arrests our gaze. Italo Calvina. it sees nothing.. what our sight stumbles over: the obstacle.. it has edges.

I I 82 Species of Spaces f SPACE This right line.The emblem of moral rectitude! says Cicero. When going from Tunis to Sfax. I like knowing that midway and La Presle. has since vanished) which showed how far it was to Tripoli. . born in Laon in 1744. to take our bearings. Lawrence Sterne. We always need to know what time it is (who still knows how to deduce it from the position of the sun?) but we never ask ourselves where we are. but rather in relation to a place or a person we are thinking about. Right here. born in Amiens in 1749. Mallarrne. if not a geographer. obviously. however. we ought to ask ourselves where exactly we are. seconds. which he expressed the high esteem in which he held his postmen. in the street. I like knowing that Pierre-Francois-Andre Mechain.The best line! say cabbage planters. and try. That of course is obvious . issued a statement but warned that in future Measures Like everyone else. when they were making the carpark and no one has thought to put it back) from which all French distances by road were calculated.-"'f .the path-way for Christians to walk in! say Divines. The fact remains that the of in letter arrived. postmen accepted. The Postmaster-General. at our office. our everyday health. . . Latis* or cartography we're forever meeting people Space seems to be either tamer or more inoffensive than time. . Benghazi. whose The sender. Meridian have better things to do than solve riddles. not only concerning our state of mind. Tristram Shandy I read recently that a letter had been posted in England only address was a latitude and longitude. and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre. the British equivalent our own Minister of Posts and Telegraphs. Greenwich meridian). I presume. it wouldn't be altogether for me to determine my position in degrees. says Archimedes. minutes. We think we know: we are at home. not so alas. in the commune Mechain d'etre.4/1east of *The pseudonym of Emmanuel Peillet. and it's true that the addressee lived on his own in a house sufficiently isolated to be identifiable. picture the person you're going to meet passing directly above Grenoble.but then what isn't obvious? Now and again. such forms of address would not be in verse. at this moment. . tenths and hundredths of a second: somewhere in the region of 490 north latitude. to imagine his slow progress across a map of France. who have watches. a plaque is to be found indicating exact centre of metropolitan France. went from Dunkirk to Barcelona with the sole object of verifying how long a metre had to be (it seems that made a mistake in his calculations). somewhere in the region of 2 0 10 I 14. The path a letter follows to its point of arrival is a strictly coded can only produce 'noise'. our beliefs and our raisons position. a philosophy teacher and active member ofOuLiPo. the Saone-et-Loire. then at least a surveyor or rnaprnaker. as the coach makes its way with difficulty through the traffic jams in the Avenue de Maine. in the department of that you are at the impossible the Cher.is the shortest line. For example. people who have compasses. more systematically. crossing the Ain. when you get into the coach at the Invalides air terminal to go to Orly. or that we shall thus start thinking about. but simply concerning our topographical much in relation to the axes cited above. The same goes for addresses written from its point of departure for the axes and points of reference from which the positions and distances of any object in the universe can be determined: the Equator the Greenwich sea-level or the circle on the parvis in front of Notre-Dame (it disappeared. the Nievre and the Loiret. very seldom affair. Or else. in the Metro. our ambitions. . I feel an attraction for zero points. which can be drawn from one given point to another. (or only a few fractions of a second west of the Paris and a few dozen metres above sea-level. Alexandria and Cairo. too. was. I used to like passing the sign (it. interrogate yourself at some precise moment of the day about the positions occupied between the hamlets of Frapon of Vesdun.

but fold it five more times and you pass Pluto by some 3. try and get once and for all a clear idea of what a nautical mile is (and by the same token. folded in two 58 times In a row. etc. geometric progressions): Distance from the Earth to the Moon: a sheet of cigarette paper so fine it would take a thousand of them to make a millimetre. the direction they are facing.000. in relation both to one another and to yourself. Distance from Pluto to the Sun: the same again. Thoughts on Various Subjects) playing with space Play with large numbers (factorials. (Jonathan Swift. I used to write my address as follows: Georges Perec 18. . but a flea always larger. Play with distances: prepare a journey that would enable you to visit or pass through all the places that are 314. by folding it four more times you're just about there.60 kilometres from your house. it's the surface area a farm labourer can work in a day. the ones who live on the fifth. you went to swap the CarpentierFialap and Roux-Combaluzier textbooks of the year before for the Carpentier-Fialap and Roux-Combaluzier of the year ahead. Play with space: Cause an eclipse of the sun by ralSlng your little finger (as Leopold Bloom does in Ulysses). L'Os a moelle) Elephants are generally drawn smaller than life size. Fibonacci series. Start to get used to living in a state ofweightlessness.). the sixth. Reflect on these two quite brilliant thoughts (complementary as it happens): I ofien think about how much beg it would take to turn the Lake of Geneoa into consomme. Dumas or Jules Verne). (Pierre Dac. List the differences in levels (the ones who.000 kilometres. a knot).Species if Spaces SPACE by some of your friends. and no doubt on one of those little three-month diaries the Librairie Gibert gave away at the start of the autumn term. Long ago. Play with measurements: reacquaint yourself with feet and leagues (ifonly to make it easier to read Stendhal. remember that a journal is a unit of space. imagine their movements through space. Distance from the Earth to the Sun: ditto. like everyone else I presume. Rue de l'Assomption Staircase A Third floor Right-hand door Paris 16e Seine France Europe The World The Universe Distance from Earth to Alpha Centauri: fifteen more foldings. Look up the route you've followed on an atlas or army map.000. forget verticals and horizontals: Escher's engravings. folded in two 49 times in a row. Have yourself photographed holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. the inside of spaceships in 200I: A Space Odyssey. like you. live on the first floor.

is enough to show that this veritable mobile villa . and a long way from the the book. On either side and above the study. but on the dais also are a chair. and a working surface the flat part of which supports two books. M. The water-heater likewise works off petroleum gas. On top of one of the shelves. one of which and a small tabby cat whose position on the gives one to suppose it is dozing. This description. He sits very upright book he is reading.he comforts of the family home within an only slightly red uced setting.. The steering has an excellent 'lock'. On one side of the shelves are fixed two austere hooks. a label is fixed.86 Species (1' Spaces SPACE the conquest of space excursion through Switzerland and Alsace. panel of the worktop. its normal speed is some 40 kilometres an hour.. the caravan left . Tile very elegant coachwork is by Lacoste and its interior layout is as original as it is ingenious . giving the artist's name and the date when the picture was painted.. On a projection might be a dwarf orange-tree.e. This luxurious installation is mounted on a Saurer chassis.000-kilometre :2 Saint Jerome in his Study by Antonello da Messina (National furniture Gallery. or rather as if he red robe and wears a sort of skullcap. something much to be desired when taking the hairpin bends on mountain roads. the one on which his shoes off in order to mount the dais. to effect a 3. he were either had a frequent hat down on the chest. Above the orange-tree. whose genius has been extolled by so many distinguished minds. This vehicle is a veritable small house. steps and consists mainly It rests on a dais which is reached by three of six compartments filled with books and and various other objects (boxes chiefly and a vase). facing the saint and high above him. a bathroom. He is dressed in on his chair. The steepest descents can be tackled without fear thanks to the motor braking system.. In the daytime the bedroom turns into a studio or sitting-room. An excellent wireless set enables one to pick up all the European stations. Thanks to the ingenuity of its arrangement. a studio. and the sloping part the book that the saint is in the midst the piece of as such. in the evening the front section (behind the driver's spat) becomes a small bedroom in which the three men referred to above can relax and perform their toilet (there is a wash-basin in the casing to the left of the driver's seat and steering wheel).30 wide built to his own design. it contains: a sitting-room. a bedroom.to which a kitchen-trailer can be added . . that may be an amice or a stole. standing London) on the tiled The study is a piece of wooden floor of a cathedral. The interior decoration of M.allows its owner to rediscover all t. has had an automobile 9 metres long by 2. on his His fingers have slipped inside the pages as if only leafing through need to refer back to passages he has read earlier. the saint is sitting. They even includc a Fichct safe. On the flat. The saint has taken He has put his cardinal's a (cardinal) head. and even a small dormitory for a staff consisting of three men (two chauffeurs and a manservant). 1 lYf. and a chest. an inkwell of reading. one of which bears an item of clothing but is more likely a towel. constitute a quill. He has brought back incomparable impressions from his journey. Raymond Roussel's mobile home bears the signature of Maple's. Assoon as it was built. brief though it is. Roussel was able to enjoy a fresh horizon each evening. The fittings have been planned to meet all requirements. you can get an idea of the rest . i. also red. Raymond Roussel's Mobile Home (Extract from the Revue du Touring Club de France) The author of Impressions of Africa. It is heated electrically and has a petroleum gas-stove with flue.. as nearly always with Antonello da Messina. there stands a tiny crucifix. of the dais are two potted plants.. furniture All its elements are fixed.

The Uninhabitable 3 The Escaped Prisoner 'Thus you think you can see a bridge galloping' Jacques Roubaud I've forgotten where this anecdote came from. seems to be hesitating the tall. Seven birds are framed in the lower windows can be seen a countryside of low hills. He walked for a long time at random.e. jagged with broken glass. T SPACE 89 separating the moan of the siren from the splashing and having of the waves. no known case of an error being detected. with one paw raised. coastlines bristling with barbed wire. the encaged. the small. it seems to me to illustrate my purpose admirably. the mean. with the exception of a lion. the of rabbit of ostentation mediocrity thousands The uninhabitable: seas used as a dump. on the sill of • 4 Meetings It would be quite senseless obviously if it were otherwise. Nevertheless. the architecture of tower of contempt blocks. there's Everyof even a peacock bird of prey are obligingly next to a magnificent The whole space is organized The glacial architecture the hostility ineffable and its vertical faith. on the whether of the cathedral. Through the escapee deduced the width of the river. a river with two people in a boat and three fishermen. There was the moan of a siren. i. the waves raised by the passing boat came and broke on the bank. boggy rivers. I can't guarantee The uninhabitable: vainglorious its authenticity and I'm far from being certain as to the accuracy of its terminology. Knowing how wide it was. uninhabitable. books and men. At a certain moment he came to the banks of a river. From the time shanty towns. A few seconds later. of furniture. The whole which perched is seen from a vast ogival opening and a very young copper basin. identified it. narrow upper windows. Surrounded the study defines a domesticated by cats. the airless. thing has been studied. around the piece offurniture (and is organized around the book). Yet I still feel something French and Italian Cenis tunnel. townships . which. towns that smell bad hutches piled one above the other. straight ahead. been worked out. walls reinforced doors The uninhabitable: the confined. judas windows. olive trees. with serenity the whole of the piece of furniture no question of the church (the bareness of the tiling. the shrunken. The night was pitch black. piles of carcasses. to come and disturb the saint at his work. the cutprice or display. a cypress tree. The prisoner was wholly ignorant of his whereabouts. he identified it (it was the Rhine) knew where he was. of a few centimetres. right. out. company headquarters The uninhabitable: the skimped. A French prisoner of war succeeded in escaping in the middle of the night from the train that was taking him to Germany.88 Species of Spaces It is empty. the very precisely calculated The uninhabitable: the bolted. earth bare of vegetation. Its perspectives the site simply of an by the of the piers) has been cancelled lines have ceased to delimit they are there to enable getting it wrong. a castle. mass graves. workmen like amazement meeting when I think of the solely to lend scale to the piece space inhabited in the middle of the Mont it to be inscribed. even of a few millimetres. the out-of-bounds.

public baths. I have to conquer it. to designate it. oblivion will infiltrate my memory. character. Camp Commandant. unmoving. real fireplace. never given to me. untouched and almost untouchable. hangars. exclusive small garden. 100 tree shoots in leaf from a metre and a half to four metres high. Space melts like sand running through one's fingers. luxurious designer conversion. exceptional value You are asked to give your name after Embellishment: 39533/43/Kam/1 6 November 1943 10 You are requested to place these supplies of plants at our disposal. the attic of my childhood filled with intact memories . ceases to be appropriated" Space is a doubt: I have constantly to mark it. peace and quiet.m. deeprooted. barracks. My spaces are fragile: time is going to wear them away. car parks. To SS-Sturmbannfiihrer Ceasar. loggia. sunlight. of origin: My birthplace. double (stainless steel) sink. unbeatable "view. to destroy them. vast homes in the sky. all to come from the stocks in our nurseries. Time bears it away and leaves me only shapeless shreds: p. Head of the Central Building Directorate of the Waffen SS and the Police at Auschwitz. asylums. lycees. elegant pieds-aterre. Such places don't exist. trees.000 bushes for use as lining from one to two and a half metres high.go Species if Spaces SPACE 91 The hostile. Camp Commandant. double aspect. my memories will betray me. In conformity with an order from SS-Obersturmbannfiihrer Hoss. superb bachelor pads. Nothing will any longer resemble what was. the ugly. I shall look at a few old yellowing photographs with broken edges without recognizing them. the house where I may have been born. the grey. ticket windows. law courts. school playgrounds space-saving private properties. the cradle of my family. balcony. old people's homes. Nos 1 and 2 crematorium ovens in the camp will be provided with a green border serving as a natural boundary to the camp" The following is a list of the plants needing to be drawn from our stocks of trees: 200 trees in leaf from three to five metres high. telephone. fashionable studio flats in leafy surroundings. Le Pitre ne rit pas. converted attics. The words 'Phone directory available within' or 'Snacks served at any hour' will no longer be written up in a semi-circle in white porcelain letters on the window of the little cafe in the Rue Coquilhere. the corridors of the Metro. intangible. marshalling yards. 1948) Space (Continuation and End) I would like there to exist places that are stable. beams. Ref: Conversation between SS-Obersturmbannfiihrer Hoss. places that might be points of reference. of departure. unchanging. lastly. Signed: SS-Obersturmfiihrer (quoted by David Rousset. hallway. ceases to be incorporated. the tree I may have seen grow (that my father may have planted the day I was born). Objective: to assemble the plants for the purpose of providing a border of greenery for the camp's Nos 1 and 2 crematorium ovens. 1. and Sturmbannfiihrer Bishoff. . hotel bedrooms factories.. triple reception rooms. It's never mine. ceases to be self-evident. prisons. the anonymous. Head of Agricultural Services in the Concentration Camp of Auschwitz (Upper Silesia). and it's because they don't exist that space becomes a question..

33 Dumas. public. 24 Carpet of earth. 44 Cypress. 43 Baths. post office. 32 Dozing. Maltese. 56 Carcass. 53 Bach. 10 Eble. 89 Bayreuth. 89 Carpaccio. 73 Coat-rack. 85 Conversation. Alexandre. 78 Firedogs. Larry. 78 Elephants. 66 Etretat. 90 Cooker. 14 Christmas. Sigmund. 12 Dried beef. 21 Apple. 17 Bar. 91 Avery. 80 Cicero. time. 38 Cream. 31 Bird. 32 Beauchamp sand. a mark or a few signs. 89 Cherries. 40 Fat men. 58. Skinner's. 34 Basalt. 77 Barometer. 20 Columbus. 87 Dry cleaner. 17 Bone. Vittore. 22 Aeroplane. 58 Dugommier. to cause something to survive. a trace. 19 Capsule. 69 Chestnuts. 70 Cross. 7 Box. 81 Climber. Christopher. to leave somewhere a furrow. 87 Dame Tartine. Jean-Baptiste. 41 Freud. 48 Bathroom scales. 79 Chromosome. 78 Fruit jelly. Tex. 33 Diary. Johann Sebastian. 51 Furtive glance. 47 Game of go. 14 Clover.uz Calendar. 76 Confidence trick.22 Euler. 26 Attic. 34 Bulb. 85 Elm. Simic Brothers'. 19 Character. 40 . 8 Bolster. Clumps. 90 Crazy paving. 27 Country bread. 15 Crayfish. 65 Consomme. 68 Cradle. Leonhard.92 Species if Spaces Index of some of the words used in this work Adler. 21 Baobab. 27 Coloured print. 66 Boots. 32 Amiensv Bz Angostuta. 70 Equipages. 34 Curlers. 80 Bateaux. 69 SPACE 93 To write: to try meticulously to retain something. to wrest a few precise scraps from the void as it grows. 54 Billiard-room.

20 Snack. 21 Inkwell. 5'2 25 78. 57 Saint-Nazaire. 85 Letter C.8s Planet.. la. 75 Suspensioncable.4?Iren shutter. 3'7 Monkey wrencltes.S. '7 HarrnonitllTI. Alfred. I. Nurseryman. 26 Phone directory. 54 Safe. 58 Siren. 18 Mich igiln.i.. Forbidden. 65. 64 Sylvia Scar-let. 61 Saint-Germain.~ Pebble.p Tom Thumb. 15 Pipe. 42 Icarus.54 Toul. 51 57 Pisa.IS Po terne . 74Greenery. 6 Wasllenvomen. J4 Stlnday. Sash window. 86 Wright.gl Photographs. s.64 Morice Line.91 Soul. 10 Tricolour. 54 Peace. 86 Sahara. 91 Pianist. 87 Horse 011 wheels. Joseph. 50 Marshmallows. 20 reetaagular. 66 W'ireles:s. 65 Nail scissors. Edmond.? Lion Noir. 59 Pram.~ Splashing. flo Leuer T. '~Q Verdun. 45 Shotgun. go Ham. 80 Michelin Campa:n)'. . 15 .0 Graffit. '37 Sewing. 2:2 Melbourne. 14 Wind. 78 Iloadmenderl. The Ta:le of. 19 Pedal bin.94" Species a/Spaces Nouvelle Revue Fraueaise. 54 Tam. 40 Ponreise. 14 la. 42 Large red '0'. .4Torch. ~$ Harem. 16 "Toothache. '28 Teaspoon.. Laundry·room. 64 Pole. 54 Toast. 88 Statue.52 Leopold Bloom.3Ol SPACE 95 Genji. 91 Portola'no. 69 Violet. 65 Letter R. fh Winter garden. Saint-Lazare. 14 N(l man's land. 7 Louis XVI. 53 Saint-Antoine. 59 Parallelepiped. 48 Lion. 6' Porcelain. 61 Saint-Onen.2' Orange-tree. 86 St Thomas Aquinas. 2. 61 Saint-Derris. '4 Ilostand. 46 rto -eream S.?? Tea. 4.78 Hook. 10 St Ierome. 18 My little niece. 30 Haydn. 49 Saenredarn.. Saint-Cloud. Plane tree. 88 Sisley. 18 Nanny. 54 Haze. 74 Motherland. St Helena. go Paradis.81 Spaghetti. 87 Origin. 54 Polygraph. 53 Salt lake. 43 Pedicurist.69 Trasimeno. 61 Saint-Honorec Gi Sainr-Jeen-Rehrbash.51 Grande UIIlSioIl. 59 Saint-Chely-d'Apcher. Pieter. 74 Muse. Frank Lloyd.

small planet of Georges Perec .96 Species of Spaces No 2817 (1982 UJ) has borne the name Since 1984.

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