In the City, the past is an equal presence alongside the here and now. The choices, habits and building styles of past generations have left their mark on daily life. The City has also been a central literary motif since the breakthrough of the novel. In fact, several authors’ depictions of cities still characterise the popular perception of our urban environments.
Many a reader can see in their mind’s eye the draughty flats in the Vesterbro neighbourhood of Tove Ditlevsen’s Copenhagen, the tenements for large families in Stockholm’s Södermalm as described by Stig Claesson or the slums of the Haga quarter in Lydia Sandgren’s Gothenburg. Anyone with access to a library can visit Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Saint Petersburg or Virginia Woolf’s London.
Through our theme dedicated to the City, we want to start conversations about the urban environment – not just as a literary backdrop, but also as a sanctuary, as a place to live, and as an architectural project seeking to respond to the challenges of the future. Researchers, philosophers and authors will come together to discuss the problems and opportunities posed by the city. Drawing upon our host city, Gothenburg, which is celebrating its 400th anniversary and its recent designation as a UNESCO City of Literature, the theme will explore everything from city planning, gentrification and the need for places for free culture to urbanisation and sustainability from a global perspective.