Alienation and the City, or, How to Find and Lose Yourself in Berlin and Kars

William Fysh

Abstract


In Konvolut M of the Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin comments instructively on the duality of the city as experienced by the flâneur. He writes: ‘the city splits for him into dialectical poles. It opens up to him as a landscape, even as it closes around him as a room’ (Benjamin, trans. Eiland and McLaughlin, 1999, 417). The implications of this are several. The dialectical poles are on the one hand spatial - indicators of the flexibility of self-location in the city. However, they are also metaphysical and meta-poetic. The city offers the possibility for a blending of personal and collective memories; for an opening of the mind to a ‘landscape’ of social interaction or a retreat of the soul into its own isolated ‘room’; for the injection of a creative impulse or the projection of psychological and experiential stagnation. This study examines the impact of these dialectical poles on ideas of selfhood, loss and memory in Cees Nooteboom’s All Souls’ Day and Orhan Pamuk’s Snow.

Keywords


cities; selfhood; loss; memory

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