Like me, Eliot was an American who loved London. He moved to England at age 25 and basically never left (He actually renounced his US citizenship and became a British subject- professors are never sure whether to teach him as an American poet or a British one- both sides want to claim him). Unreal City comes from a line in his epic poem ‘The Wasteland’:
“Unreal City,He goes on to describe a dark and numb post-Great War London. It’s all somewhat dark, but there is a certain tenderness to those words which appeals to me.
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn”
I’ve read the Wasteland more times then I can count, and in no less then three seperate college courses, and every time I find new beauty in his words. I can’t pretend to say I know what he was thinking when he wrote the line above, but I can tell you what the Unreal City means to me. I think it refers to an intangible part of London, on that extends beyond population, history and geography. This spirit of London, is what captured the imagination of countless poets, novelists and journalists. In her book Imagined London Anna Quindlen calls this the “world’s greatest fictional city,” and that, more then anything, is what enthralls me.
Over the next half a year I’m going to be doing my best to explore this vast place called London, both through the concrete realist of walking, working and drinking here (let’s face it- probably a lot of the latter), and through the printed page (more on this in the next post). When you mash the two together, the living and the literary, that is what I call
exploring the unreal city.