Background and mould of a sizeable part of modern literature, the city has often developed into a literary myth. Be it a metropolis like London or Berlin, or a cosmopolitan area in Mitteleuropa like Trieste or Prague, it is possible to consider the city as a semantic space, a representation of a text open to multiple and different interpretations.
Literature helps to ‘create’ a city as much as architects do, as Kevin Lynch has stated about Dickens’ London: the writer builds the perception readers have of a place, and the way it is imagined by his/her readers. This can be clearly exemplified by 19th-century literature, in which cities like Paris, London and Vienna were rebuilt like works of art to celebrate their historical achievements, and took their place in the collective unconscious as much as the characters of the most famous novels of the time.
In literature, the city becomes then an existential topos: the place in which the world’s complexity is discovered; the interior and mental landscape; the place of modernity with its tensions and difficult appeasement between individuality and community; paysage moralisé and infinite; discordant place of aporias.