On this corner, where the Luxembourg Gardens join the rue d’Assas, once stood a public urinal that was a favorite stopping point for Henry Miller. Relieving a full bladder in open view of the street, he could reflect on the different vision of human necessity that distinguished France from America:
how is the Frenchman to know that one of the first things which strikes the eye of the American visitor, which thrills him, warms him to the very gizzard is this ubiquitous urinal? How is the Frenchman to know that what impresses the American in looking at a pissotière, or a vespasienne, or whatever you choose to call it, is the fact that he is in the midst of a people who admit to the necessity of peeing now and then […]
There are certain urinals I go out of my way to make—such as the battered rattle-trap outside the deaf and dumb asylum, corner of the rue St. Jacques and the Rue de l’Abbé-de-l’Epée, or the Pneu Hutchinson one by the Luxembourg Gardens, corner Rue d’Assas and Rue Guynemer.
Such urinals, no longer to be found in Paris, were captured in the evocative night photographs of Miller’s friend, Brassaï. Miller singled out these photos in his tribute to Brassaï’s work, “The Eye of Paris”: “I see the old tin urinals where, standing in the dead silence of the night, I dreamed so violently that the past sprang up like a white horse and carried me out of the body.”
Corner of rue d’Assas and rue Guynemer