Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Friday, July 13, 2012

It Might Have Been Another Dresden

I have blogged before about Teju Cole's Open City.  Just want to quote, for emphasis, a key passage that reveals the meaning of the term "open city":
The houses, bridges, and cathedrals of Brussels had been spared the horrors visited on the low farmland and forests of Belgium, which had borne the brunt of the countless wars fought on the territory.  Slaughter and destruction, ferocious to a degree rarely experienced in history, had taken place on the Somme, in Ypres, and before that, out at Waterloo.
Those were the theaters, so conveniently set at the intersection of Holland, Germany, England, and France, in which Europe's fatal tussles had played out.  But there had been no firebombing of Bruges, or Ghent, or Brussels.  Surrender, of course, played a role in this form of survival, as did negotiation with invading powers.  Had Brussels's leaders not opted to declare it an open city and thereby exempt it from bombardment during the Second World War, it might have been reduced to rubble.  It might have been another Dresden.
Indeed.  Surrender and negotiation.  The crucial survival skills of history.

Anyway, sort-of on Grobstein's recommendation, I have been reading James Wood's How Fiction Works, which I like so far, and so I was disappointed to see that Wood wrote the review of Open City that I thought missed the mark by identifying New York as the "open city" of the title (and construing "openness" in a vague, unspecified way, whereas I take it to have a specific and crucial meaning).  Wood may have wanted to avoid "spoiling" the book, but either way his take on the book is very different from mine.  But, you know, it is our differences that make the world a rich place.

5 Comments:

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I thought I liked James Wood until I read How Fiction Works, then I started to think of him as a guy with really conservative aesthetic opinions who tries to back them up with grand moral theories.

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