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The City and the Writer Introduces Specials

By Nathalie Handal

The idea of adding a Specials component to The City and the Writer came while I was in Berlin this past winter 2010. Some cities seduce and intrigue so profoundly that you can’t refrain from wanting more. To touch its mysteries, get lost in its stories, architecture, and forgotten corners. I wanted to explore literary Berlin in greater depth—from its old neighborhoods to its newer ethnic ones. Additionally, I met numerous writers (many unknown to the English speaking world) and wanted to introduce them. But Berlin was not the only place that fascinated me in Germany: other cities, such as Cologne and Leipzig, did as well. So the idea of doing a Special on one country by featuring different cities came to mind. Then something else happened during my encounters with writers of Turkish descent in Germany. One of the most important, often most dynamic, changes in cities is the arrival of people from other parts of the world. It became vital to add one last Special, one that featured the Diaspora. Exiles and immigrants see their new city differently; they hear another song than that of natives. See the phantoms, the cracks that, at times, keep the city from collapsing. And together, the fusion creates not only something unique but gives us a glimpse of our future, one where borders have to be redefined, where we will transcend what once kept us away from each other.

Therefore, The City and the Writer will occasionally present the following Special Series:

*Special City Series: explore the featured city through different writers.
*Special Country Series: explore different cities of a featured country.
*Special the City and the Diaspora Series: explore the history of a country through writers of its Diaspora as well as these writers' new city somewhere in the globe.

The first Special City Series presents New York City 2011. Every week for one month, a writer will speak about his borough, starting off with the Bronx.

This Special appears as the PEN American Center / Readers and Writers Program launches their event “Borough, Barrio, Block: New York Neighborhoods and How They Got That Way.” PEN describes it as follows: “Many neighborhoods in the City of New York seem arbitrarily defined: in the length of one block or from one side of a roadway to another, the cultural, ethnic, and economic composition of an area gives way to a wholly different mix.  Why? Why do some neighborhoods change and others stay the same?  Why do you live where you live?  A panel of writers reflects on some of the forces—political, social, and even geographic—that have given rise to the city that we know.”

Published Feb 24, 2011   Copyright 2011 Nathalie Handal

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