The Real Paris
A City Divided
Paris & Politics
Space & Money
"Command over space, as
every general and geopolititian knows, is of the utmost
strategic significance in any power struggle . . .
This value is at the root of land rent" (Harvey
|Horizontal and Vertical Separation:
In eighteenth century Paris, "inequality
began in relation to space" (Roche 100). The
northwest quadrant of Paris was generally inhabited
by the wealthy, and the northeast by the proletariat.
In addition, though people of different classes often
lived together in the same building, there were clear
advantages to being wealthy: poorer families lived
on higher floors, with many more people in each room.
In Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Thenardier
accuses Jean Valjean:
|"You have wadded overcoats like archbishops,
you live on the first floor in houses with a porter,
you eat truffles..." - Les Miserables,
Marius, Book VIII, ch. 20
Thus the classes were not only divided
horizontally, but vertically as well. The image to
the right illustrates this point. It appeared in 1845
in a Parisian newspaper, and is a cross section of
a typical apartment. On the ground floor, servants
are going about their work and an elderly couple are
dancing to music played on a piano by a young girl.
On the first floor, two aristocrats lounge in the
lap of luxury. One should note the balcony on this
level as well, which was characteristic of the buidligns
designed in the 1820's buiding boom. On the second
floor, a middle bourgeoisie family lives comfortably,
if a bit crowded. On the third floor, the rooms are
smaller. In the room on the left, a man appears to
be being evicted. In the room on the right, a less
wealthy elderly couple entertain themselves with a
small dog. The fourth floor is divided into three
rooms. In the leftmost, two bohemians are celebrating.
Next door, a young man sits, with an umbrella to protect
himself from leaks in the ceiling. In the far right
room live a poor man and woman with three hungry children.
A staircase going through the whole building also
shows a progression of wealth, with only a cat walking
up the last flight.
Economically based separation of
the classes was a trend which continued into the nineteenth
century. In 1820, a building boom swept through the
city. It was encouraged by private enterprise and
land speculation, as well as government regulations
on such issues as street
width, the presence of gas
lamps, and increased use of pavement.
Inhabitants of the older apartments, mostly petty
bourgeoisie and lower class workers, were driven out
of their homes by rising rents. Real estate value
increased as businesses began to move into the first
floor of newer buildings, and dilapidated appartments
were destroyed to make room for the improvements which
Paris is famous for today.
|Space in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
"[Marius'] hunger increased. He knew her name,
her first name at least, the charming name, the real
name of a woman; he knew where she lived; he desired
to know who she was.
One night after he had followed them home, and seen
them disappear at the porte-cochère, he entered
after them, and said boldly to the porter:-
"Is it the gentleman of the first floor who has
just come in?"
"No," answered the porter. "It is the
gentleman on the third."
Another fact. This success made Marius still bolder.
"In front?" he asked.
"Faith!" said the porter, "the house
is only built on the street."
"And what is this gentleman?"
"He lives on his income, monsieur. A very kind
man, who does a great deal of good among the poor,
though not rich"
(Les Miserables, Marius, Book VI, ch. 9).
This short passage is rife with
examples of the division of space in Paris. For example,
when Marius desires to know more about Cosette, he
first asks what floor she lives on. The fact that
Cosette and Valjean live in a new apartment tells
us that the two are probably of the bourgeoisie class,
while the information that they live on the third
floor narrows the field to lower middle bourgeoisie.
This deduction is confirmed by the Porter's response,
"A very kind man, who does a great deal of good
among the poor, though not rich."
|Haussmannization of Paris: