Sunday, November 28, 2010

Urban marvel 1959: The Lonely Londoners

Reading Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners, the narrative of West Indian immigrants in post-war London, I was struck by this passage which rather sums up the power of a city to enthral its inhabitants, to inspire a sense of real romance and imaginative possession. You could so easily substitute the streets, squares, and haunts of your own city:

Oh what it is and why it is, no one knows, but to have said: ‘I walked on Waterloo Bridge,’ ‘I rendezvoused at Charing Cross,’ ‘Piccadilly Circus is my playground,’ to say these things, to have lived these things, to have lived in the great city of London, centre of the world. To one day lean against the wind walking up the Bayswater Road (destination unknown), to see the leaves swirl and dance and spin on the pavement (sight unseeing), to write a casual letter home beginning: ‘Last night, in Trafalgar Square…’ What is it that a city has, that any place in the world has, that you get so much to like it you wouldn't leave it for anywhere else?
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