Grisélidis Réal (11 August 1929 – 31 May 2005) was a writer and prostitute from Geneva, Switzerland.
Life and sex work
She was born in Lausanne, in a family of teachers and spent her childhood in Alexandria, and then in Athens, where her father was working. Back to Switzerland, she studied art in Zürich. She started working as a sex worker at the beginning of the sixties. She lived in Germany, with her children (she had four) and her lover.
Réal stopped sex work in 1995, at the age of 66. She died of cancer in Geneva in 2005. On 9 March 2009 she was exhumed and reburied in the Cemetery of the Kings, the prestigious Geneva cemetery where Ernest Ansermet, John Calvin, Jorge Luis Borges, Alberto Ginastera, Frank Martin, Jean Piaget and Alice Rivaz are buried.
In her first book, Le noir est une couleur (Black is a color – Balland, 1974, ISBN 2-7158-0005-3), she told her story in a blunt and honest way, with a dark lyrical tone she got from her own experience.
During the seventies, Réal became an activist for sex workers, in particular, in 1973, with the occupation of the Chapelle Saint-Bernard, in Paris. Réal rejected the argument of the alienation by the pimps, and stated that prostitution could be a choice, a free-will decision. The revolutionary whore was born. She helped in the creation of a support association (Aspasie) for prostitutes. In her tiny home in Geneva, she created an international documentation center about prostitution. In 1992, she published La Passe imaginaire (L'Aire/Manya, ISBN 2-87896-037-8), a compilation of letters sent to her friend Jean-Luc Hennig.
In parallel to her political fight, Réal developed a positive vision of what she called in January 2005, "an Art, a Humanism and a Science".
- Staff (10 March 2009) "Uproar in Switzerland as prostitute Griselidis Real buried near Protestant John Calvin" Daily Telegraph
- Kirkup, James (7 June 2005) "Griselidis Real, Virtuoso writer and 'revolutionary whore'", The Independent (UK)
- in the preface to Carnet de bal d'une courtisane, Verticales, March 2005, ISBN 2-84335-219-3
- Publications by and about Grisélidis Réal in the catalogue Helveticat of the Swiss National Library
- "Literary estate of Grisélidis Réal". HelveticArchives. Swiss National Library.
- Aspasie web site
- Spanish documentary about her life
- Swiss uproar: Prostitute buried near John Calvin, Washington Post, 9 March 2009
- Griselidis Real, Virtuoso writer and 'revolutionary whore', The Independent (UK), 7 June 2005