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Nineteen Hundred – The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean: A Heterotopia Narrative

The story Novecento by Alessandro Baricco, filmed as The Legend of 1900, revolves around the extraordinary life of an exceptionally talented piano player who has spent his whole life on a ship and has decided to end his life on the same ship. Named after the year of his birth, 1900, the protagonist lives a musical life on an Atlantic liner without ever setting foot on land. This existence on the ship is in stark contrast to life on land. Baricco’s narrative explores how the ship and the ocean offer a different mode of existence to life on land, presenting the ship as a unique artistic representation, a concept similar to Michel Foucault’s notion of a ‘perfect heterotopia’. For Foucault, the main feature that makes the ship a unique heterotopia is related to the fact that it is a space of freedom and creativity, a space without space, which escapes or suspends power in the existing spatial world, thus opening to another world and breaking away from the established norms and structures of society. Baricco’s narrative skillfully portrays the heterotopic nature of the ship and the ethical subjectivity within this exceptional space, taking into account both the individual and the surrounding factors in an artistic manner. The central factor that elevates the ship to a unique level of heterotopia, as presented by Baricco, is art and the artistic way of life.


Michel Foucault, Heterotopia, The Legend of 1900, Ship, Power


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