Mittwoch, 2. Mai 2018

City as Character: Getting lost in the text-cities of Joyce, Döblin, and Dos Passos / Tyler Malone in: Lapham's Quarterly April 30, 2018

Sometimes I forget that I’ve never been to Dublin. I feel its cobblestones under my feet. I hear the “shouts in the street” of Irish schoolboys—what Stephen Dedalus calls “God” in James Joyce’s Ulysses—as clearly as I do the susurrations of my dog Bloom beneath my desk as I write. I picture the cemetery where my dog’s namesake, Leopold Bloom, attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam, spying at the edges of the funeral party a “lankylooking galoot” wearing a mackintosh, more vividly than I can any of the cemeteries in which my grandparents are buried. I have an uncanny familiarity with what Dedalus elsewhere calls the “items in the catalogue of Dublin’s furniture”: the Martello Tower at Sandycove, the Forty Foot promontory, the “scrotumtightening sea” below, the “unwholesome sandflats” of Sandymount Strand, the residence at 7 Eccles Street, Sweny’s Chemist, Trinity College, Merchant’s Arch, where a man might buy a smutty book like Sweets of Sin for his wife, and on through to the Liffey.
This March marked the hundredth anniversary of the publication of the first chapter of Ulysses—the preeminent “modernist city novel”—in The Little Review. Joyce said to writer Frank Budgen, as they walked along the Universitätstrasse in Zurich, that one of his goals in writing Ulysses was “to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.” One can imagine John Dos Passos stating a similar aim with regards to his New York City novel Manhattan Transfer, or Alfred Döblin saying the same of his Berlin Alexanderplatz. These three novels are modernist city novels of the interwar period that move beyond story and character to build structures and trace movements, reconstructing modern metropolises that a world war would soon change forever. Joyce, Dos Passos, and Döblin fashioned not novels but eternal text-cities in which the reader may witness, wander, get lost.

Large-scale plan of Dublin, G.W. Bacon & Co., c. 1915. The New York Public Library, Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division.

Large-scale plan of Dublin, G.W. Bacon & Co., c. 1915. The New York Public Library, Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division.
Ostensibly, Berlin Alexanderplatz—reissued last month by NYRB Classics in a new, long-awaited Michael Hofmann translation—is the tale of Franz Biberkopf, “former transport worker, housebreaker, pimp, manslaughterer,” who, upon his release from Tegel Penitentiary, attempts to stay on the straight and narrow.... [mehr]

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