martedì 17 febbraio 2009


The cities I have lived in made me think about urban space, especially if they had been narrated by writers I appreciate. Daniel Pennac’s novels were the first stimulus to visit Parisian places I did not know. This research has brought to a literary guide in collaboration with Anusca Ferrari.

The discovery of a possible intersection between urban and literary world was very useful to read novels as textual cities, and real places as starting points for a serial of literary variations. It was interesting to follow the novelist’s path backwards. Anusca and I have started from the narration of the actual place in order to reach the places of narration, where the trace of strange urban stories is inscribed. These are often so incredible, that even when the novels allude to them, they are considered as made up by the author.

My stay in Martinique brought me to a further investigation in the relationship between urbanism and literature. Fort-de-France was a perpetual discovery for a compulsive reader like me. Anywhere I went, it felt I was entering a novel. To me, the public gardens called Savane were the place where Solibo Magnificient died. Schœlcher library reminded me of the reverence this place inspired to Confiant’s characters.

As for the old town hall, I was almost moved to know that Aimé Césaire would still receive there students and intellectuals. To me Césaire was an abstract figure but he was there, alive and kicking, in the old town hall. Even the suburbs of Fort-de-France, that have quite an impersonal and scarcely human look where, like anywhere else, an important step in my wanderings.

Morne Pichevin has nowadays very little to share with the mysterious and ill-famed block evoked by Confiant’s novels, but some remains of its roaring years (1950s and ’60s) are still visible. A sign like this, for example, witnesses the pride and the struggle for independence beyond any restoration.

I went to Texaco, the famous bidonville that has inspired a novel by Chamoiseau, because they had advised me not to. I have never felt in danger, though. The restoration is almost transforming it in a residential block that, like many other suburbs, becomes unsafe after sunset.
The juxtaposition between these places and the narration they had inspired, as well as the observation of a urban and architectural sense that is completely different from the one I knew, inspired me another literary guide, where my hypothesis is that some of the typical features of Fort-de-France bear the trace of the world of plantation. For instance, the flickering place names seem to correspond to the practice of the “secret name”.

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