2007, Tue, Sep 11

The Hidden Memory - New York after 9/11

Luc Sante speaks with Herbert Genzmer

Without a doubt, the attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington on 11 September 2001 changed the world. Much has been written about 9/11 – with the analysis and commentary almost invariably turning to international terrorism and its prevention. A discussion hosted by the House on the 6th anniversary of the attacks will have a different focus: the traces in and effects on the city and on New Yorkers themselves.

In his lecture, author Luc Sante will explore the geography and psyche of the city after 9/11 and trace the hidden memory of New York. Sante has written two indispensable books on the cultural history of New York. "Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York" and "My Lost City" devote themselves to the strange, the suppressed and that which has disappeared. With a keen, yet unnostalgic sense of loss, "My Lost City" tells of the 1970s, when New York was a kind of exterritorial zone free of inherent practical constraints.


Moderated by: Herbert Genzmer, author of the book "New York, Literarische Spaziergänge" ("New York, Literary Walks", 2000)



Luc Sante's abstract

New York City today is a city with a cauterized wound. The role of victim, however, does not accord with the city's view of itself, and despite considerable pressure from within and without to maintain the state of mourning and recrimination, the city is aggressively engaged in acting as if nothing had ever happened. New York, which by many estimates functioned as capital of the twentieth century, has lost much of its power--owing to the ongoing global process of decentralization, there may never be a capital of the twenty-first--but it refuses to accept this fate as well. Furious construction, erasure of history, baseless elitism--the city seems to be on a parallel track with Beijing and Shanghai. But then again, aren't those the very values that made New York a world power to begin with, in the nineteenth century? The imputation of decadence, the whiff of brimstone, and the tempting of fate are all matters that New York has taken in its stride in the past. That it has survived a frontal attack merely adds to its luster a touch of heroic panache. The remaining question is one that applies to all ambitious cities today: Does New York still possess a soul?