On the City Novel as Genre

Finalizing a chapter on the city novel as genre – what distinguishes the city novel?

Drawing on Daniel Acke, Burton Pike, Hana Wirth-Nesher, Bart Keunen, and others – one important reference point is also the preface to Rodenbach’s Bruges-la-morte:

“Voilà ce que nous avons souhaité de suggérer: la Ville orientant une action; ses paysages urbains, non plus seulement comme des toiles de fond, comme des thèmes descriptifs un peu arbitrairement choisis, mais liés à l’événement même du livre.”

“The conception to which I have striven to give a certain embodiment is that of the influence exerted by a town in the whole character of its details, which are therefore indefinably linked to all the incidents contained in the narrative.”

Rodenbach, Georges 1892/1903: Bruges-la-Morte. Translated by Thomas Duncan. London: Swan Sonnenschein & co.

Not the city as character, then (although Rodenbach refers to that, too), but the city as presence and influence.


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