A Horror and a Beauty: The World of Peter Ackroyd's London Novels
paperback, 302 pp., 1. edition
published: march 2016
recommended price: 380 czk
Peter Ackroyd is one of the foremost contemporary British “London writers”. He focuses on the capital, its history, development and identity, both in his fiction and non-fiction. The London of his novels is thus a highly idiosyncratic construct which reflects and derives from its author’s ideas about the actual city’s nature as well as his concept of the English literary sensibility in general as he outlines them in his lectures and historical and literary studies. It is an exceptionally heterogeneous city of enormous diversity and richness of human experience, moods and emotion, of actions and events, and also of the tools through which these are (re)presented and reenacted. According to Ackroyd, this heterogeneity mostly originates outside the sites and domains of the established or mainstream cultural production and social norms and conventions, particularly in occult practices, subversive acts and the plotting of radical individuals or groups, criminal and fraudulent activities of various kinds, dubious scientific experiments, and the popular dramatic forms of ritual and entertainment whose permanent encounters with and contesting of the officially approved and prescribed forms instigate the city’s vitalising energy for dynamic change and spiritual renewal. This book presents the world of Ackroyd’s London novels as a distinct chronotope determined by specific spatial and temporal properties and their mutual interconnectedness. Although such a concept of urban space in its essence defies categorisation, the book is thematically organised around six defining aspects of the city as Ackroyd identifies them: the relationship between its past and present, its uncanny manifestations, its felonious tendencies, its inhabitants’ psychogeographic and antiquarian strategies, its theatricality, and its inherently literary character.