Literature with Other Arts
Edited By Haun Saussy and Gerald Gillespie
The Day Europe Ended. Urban Apocalypses in the Hinge of Darkness
← 46 | 47 →The Day Europe Ended
Urban Apocalypses in the Hinge of Darkness
University of Bucharest
Any quest for the fascinating craft of building imaginary urban spaces puts the enquirer in an unusual situation, subtly referred to by Italo Calvino in his Invisible Cities:
I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways and the degree of the arcades’ curves and what kind of zinc scales over the roofs; but I already know that this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between measurements of its space and the events of its past. As this wave of memories flows in, the city soaks up like a sponge and expands. (4)
The erratic faces of an urban space change according to the devices of its cultural representation—be it verbal, pictorial, musical, architectural etc. One of the tropes which highlight the artistic practices drawn on by a multilayered urban architecture is the urban palimpsest.
My study draws on two urban palimpsests, Petersburg and Moscow, as created by Russian writers Andrei Bely and Mikhail Bulgakov, in their novels Petersburg and the Master and Margarita. Both cities are represented as potential thresholds between the European civilization and a terrifying barbarity, against the background of the political turmoil of the early twentieth century. In what follows, my aim...
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