The History Man

I read this passage from Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man (1975) this morning as the Overground trundled through the new Stratford taking shape for the Olympics.

Howard Kirk is stood at the top of a multistorey carpark above a shopping centre:
“He stares out, over the unwindowed parapet, at the topography of the town. … To one side he can see the blocks of luxury flats, complete but half-empty, with convenience kitchens and wall-to-wall carpeting and balconies pointed at the horizon; to the other side, on the hill, stand the towers of high-rise council flats, superficially similar, stacked, like a social workers’ hand-book, with separated wives, unmarried mothers, latchkey children. It is a topography of the mind; and his mind makes an intellectual contrast out of it, an image of conflict and opposition. He stares down on the town; the keys dangle; he populates chaos, orders disorder, senses strain and change.”


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