Globalisation, History, Realism, Utopia
Chapter Three ‘Edging Back into Awareness’: Realisms of the Globalised City
The city is a key representational stimulus and dilemma for any modern aesthetic project. Not only do we live in far greater numbers in far larger cities than in any other period in human history, the experience of the city structures both the organisation and the lived experience of contemporary capitalism. ‘The bourgeoisie’, in the lyrical phrases of the Manifesto, ‘has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life’.1 The ‘rush’ of stimulation and chaos these enormous cities confront us with is, for Marshall Berman, a constitutive factor in modernity and modernism itself.2 James Kelman’s How Late it Was, How Late and Kerstin Hensel’s Tanz am Kanal confront their readers with realist representations of those aspects of urban life too often neglected by the ideologists of neoliberalism and, crucially, they both use these representations to suggest patterns of political resistance in the modern city. How Late it Was, How Late follows Sammy Samuels, an out-of-work builder’s labourer, as he struggles to rebuild his life following the devastating results of a blinding beating from the police. Sammy’s struggle for survival allows Kelman not only to document the experience of bureaucracy, dilapidated public services and state repression which is so much of contemporary urban working-class life, but also of fers 1 MECW, 6: 488. My thoughts in this chapter take inspiration from David Harvey, Rebel Cities (London: Verso, 2012). 2...
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