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“ … the world I live in will go on escaping me forever. ” Questions of Space and Identity in Paul Auster’s City of Glass & Wim Wenders’ Lisbon Story

By Lilian Vogelweid Lehmann


The city space is a place of endless possibilities, a vast web of intersecting paths, peoples and times, that is at once an unknown, foreign country to be discovered, as well as an intimately familiar dwelling. It provides its inhabitants with the potential for feeling both at ease and unsettled, rooted but lost, hidden yet exposed, as somebody or nobody. Both Paul Auster in his novel City of Glass and Wim Wenders in his film Lisbon Story explore this indeterminate urban space through characters whose identities draw upon and are affected by the city and what exists therein. In the chaotic urban landscape, Auster’s and Wenders’ protagonists take to roaming the labyrinth of streets, in an effort to immerse themselves completely in the city and experience its ‘true’ nature. In order to achieve this, they believe they must first efface themselves, lose their sense of self, which results in an aimless journey to become nobody. Nevertheless, in both City of Glass and Lisbon Story, the protagonists find themselves eventually attempting to make some semblance of sense of what they are perceiving around them. Either by taking notes on the city, through the filming of it or by recording its sounds, Quinn, Monroe, Winter (the characters in Auster’s and Wenders’ works), and even the invisible character of the Portuguese modernist poet Fernando Pessoa, attempt to decipher space as they navigate it, while simultaneously relying on it as a source of inspiration for finding, creating and asserting their own existence and some form of identity

Year: 2005
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