The Spanish Prostitute Moment in pre-war French popular novels

This is a crucial element in what remains of French realist writing in the 1920s and 30s, which, for this reason and others, was more popular than praised. Based on some reading and no maths, I would venture that in a book of (x + y) pages (not counting the open letter of support from Anatole France, then almost a sine qua non in the publication of literary pornography), the Spanish Prostitute Moment arrives on page y, where, in a formula referred to by architects as the Golden Section, x/y = y/(x+y) and x < y.

An example of its use is to be found in the brothel orgy scene in Victor Margueritte's scandalous hit La garçonne (1922), discovered in this house's absentee owner's superb collection of Gallic filth. In the 1947 Flammarion reprint (without Kees van Dongen's illustrations, but jacketed with a particularly lascivious film still of Andrée Debar in the title role) it appears on p200 of 311, the first 12 of which are taken up by a letter from Mr France and other drollery. x/y = 0.590, instead of the regular 0.618, but with armbands yet more slender has many a hypopotamus been floated.

The tomboy here is Monique Lerbier, contracted for business reasons to marry a man she knows to be cheating on her. Fortunately for the publishers she doesn't just take it lying down, but in a pleasing variety of other positions, and with sundry ladies and gentlemen of her acquaintance, or not. She hits the straight and narrow in the end, but hey, if you find that offensive just don't read it.

This instance of the Spanish Prostitute Moment is particularly enjoyable because it also features a perverted upper-class Englishwoman, another of French literature's stock figures, and, to keep Edward Said miserable, takes place in the Turkish chamber (sorry Inuitists, the ice room is taken, honest).

Max is unable or unwilling to choose between the ladies on offer, so, declining the customary negress, Ginette opts for fleshy Flemish Irma, while Michelle falls for the nervous elegance of Carmen, une Espagnole en vrai, et de Séville! Then Monique and Lady Elisabeth Springfield, aka Zabeth, look on as Irma goes to work on Ginette and lucky old Max joins in a nose-to-tail triangle with Carmen and Michelle.

I suppose someone somewhere must have obtained a PhD with a study of the same strategic timing as used, ploddingly, by writers in English. Before bookshops filled up with sofas and tolerance, knowledge of the formula was crucial in quickly discovering the good bits in books one could not possibly buy, even when one's bus home displayed the number 69. I suppose Spanish fiction will one day introduce a Romanian Prostitute Moment, once it gets over its Proust spell.

(I am not back from my holidays. This kind of thing obviously needs to be dealt with before anyone else is.)

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Last updated 04/08/2007

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Film (85):

Flanders (31): Flanders], French: Flandre [flɑ̃dʁ], German: Flandern, [flɑndɛɹn]) is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium, although there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history.

France (228):

Kaleboel (4307):

Victor Margueritte (1): Victor Margueritte and his brother Paul Margueritte, French novelists, both born in Algeria, were the sons of General Jean Auguste Margueritte, who after an honorable career in Algeria was mortally wounded in the great cavalry charge at Sedan and died in Belgium on 6 September 1870.


  1. Well, it’s very kind of you, Trevor, to have taken the time out from your frivolities… In your absence, the British army has left your birthplace, but Spanish AND Valencian army military machinery have been sent to shore up the infrastructure deficiencies of your regional centre.

  2. Why don’t we send the British army to sort out Spain? I suppose the Osborne bull could be vaguely construed as deserving protection, giving us the excuse we need

  3. No, don’t dend the neds. We don’t need the army itself, but working electrical generators, apparently – some of Hispano-Valencian ones not being up to scratch.

  4. I haven’t followed the story but my general take is that it’s not fucking surprising they’ve got infrastructure problems when, every time someone tries to build a new power line or train line or anything, the place grinds to a halt with demonstrations about the latest attack by the Spanish state on this holiest of lands.

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