I'm reading the poem Inventaire by Jacques Prévert, where I think I am able to understand most of its meaning (superficial as it may be), except a phrase in the second-to-last stanza:

deux sœurs latines trois dimensions douze apôtres mille et une nuits trente-deux positions six parties du monde cinq points cardinaux dix ans de bons et loyaux services sept péchés capitaux deux doigts de la main dix gouttes avant chaque repas trente jours de prison dont quinze de cellule cinq minutes d'entr'acte

plusieurs ratons laveurs.

While it can be obviously translated "thirty-two positions" in English, I have no idea what it'd actually indicate. The word "position" has numerous definitions as I look up, but no one sounds superior to others in this context. Nor was I able to find an idiomatic usage related to this expression on Google.

What does the phrase suggest? Does it bear inconspicuous reference or fixed connotation, or just intentionally left vague or at random?

  • 2
    Représente la moitié des āsana du Kâma-sûtra possibles pour un occidental λ.
    – Personne
    Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


The proximity to mille et une nuits (One Thousand and One Nights) and later, the presence of the sept péchés capitaux (seven deadly sins) leave little doubt that Prévert is suggesting the trente-deux positions amoureuses also found in André Breton's Immaculée conception (1930).

  • I feel like this is even a direct reference to the Kama Sutra, but cannot really get where the 32 is exactly coming from. I found this along the way but seems to be published way after Prévert work Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 20:01
  • Jacques Prévert and André Breton knew each other. They both belong to the surrealist movement.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 20:16
  • @jlliagre Thank you for your answer. Is this association still well-known to modern French people, or something like in-joke in the literary circle? Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 11:42
  • 1
    The number doesn't really matter here. Talking about any given number of positions without more context is likely to suggest this interpretation. TLFi: Manière de disposer son corps ou une partie de son corps dans la pratique de certains exercices...
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 12:23

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