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Speaking the Language of the Night

Aspects of the Gothic in Selected Contemporary Novels

Adriana Raducanu

This study contributes to the emerging field of Global Gothic. It focuses on the survival and evolution of Gothic subgenres and tropes in selected contemporary novels, produced in geographies and histories far away from its Western cradle. Some Gothic features identified as universal such as the relationship between space and character, the sublime, the process of Othering, uncanny doubles and the dissolution of identity are explored. This study maintains that the novels under scrutiny, written by a wide variety of authors such as Adiga, Desai, Ishiguro, Müller, Pamuk, Roberts and Rushdie, facilitate a fruitful dialogue between West and East under the sign of Gothic. A diverse critical apparatus is employed, including texts from Bhabha, Kristeva, Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida, Mishra and others.
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Lost in Bombay and Istanbul: Urban Gothic in Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram and Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book


‘Do you know the Borsalino hat test?’

‘The what?’

‘The Borsalino hat test. It is the test that reveals whether a hat is a genuine Borsalino, or inferior imitator.’ […]

‘Just a hat? Oh, no, my friend! The Borsalino is more than just a hat. The Borsalino is a work of art! It is brushed ten thousand times, by hand, before it is sold. It was the style expression of first choice by discerning French and Italian gansgsters in Milan and Marseilles for many decades. The very name of Borsalino became a synonym for gangsters. The wild young men of the underworld of Milano and Marseilles were called Borsalinos. Those were the days when the gangsters had some style. They understood that if you were to live as an outlaw and steal and shoot people for a living, you had a responsibility to dress with some elegance. Isn’t it so?’ (Shantaram: 83, emphasis added)

Thus spoke Didier, one of the many characters that populate the semi-autobiographical universe of Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram, a novel which, since its 2003 publication, has sold millions of copies around the world. As inferred from the above quotation, the Borsalino hat is the city symbol par excellence, encompassing the urban dichotomy between style and danger. Inspired by the power of this symbol, the present chapter reads Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram and Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book from an Urban Gothic perspective, with an emphasis on...

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