“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Chinese on the Boulevard de Crenelle, 1928

Posted: September 2nd, 2019 | No Comments »

French author Francis Carco’s novel Perversity (sometimes called Depravity) was first published in 1928 and translated into English by Jean Rhys. It’s set in the Paris underworld, where a prostitute and her pimp live n the same house as her sexually immature brother. A situation that doesn’t end well.

Interestingly, for this blog, the book, which is set mainly along Paris’s Boulevard de Crenelle. Several times in the novel Carco mentions that the Boulevard de Crenelle, in the 15th arrondissement to the south west of the city, was particularly popular with Chinese and other foreign workers in the city at the time, as well as other minority groups. I don’t know if this is true, or if it’s just Carco using the imagery of the Chinese to exoticise the world of Pervesity. Of course he is also suggestign that these women have fallen so low – indeed are ‘hatless!’ (often a sign of low class) – as to sleep with foreign men (or anyone not French basically)…

‘Sometimes they would watch the procession of men who were hunting for a woman, Chinese, Arabs, Negroes.’

‘Many of his neighbours promenaded hatless young girls, and under their caps their faces were ravaged. There were many foreigners amongst them: swarthy Arabs, Chinese, Italians with short black moustaches, filthy Spaniards, Russians with reddened eyelids lacking eyelashes, Germans, fat Belgians.’

Carco, born in New Caledonia, did like to exoticise his writing and was part of the French Fantaisiste school of writers and artists.

Francis Carco
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