The study of the literature of large metropolitan centers that are divided along linguistic, ethnic, and cultural fault lines by colonizations, redrawn borders, or waves of migration provides one alternative to the national model in the study of comparative literature. Often opposed to nationalism in all its guises, the literature of nodal cities is strongly aligned with the idealistic goals of cosmopolitanism and Goethean Weltliteratur in emphasizing the fluidity of borders in those spaces and the complexity of identities they engender. The Polish novelist Paweł Huelle's 2004 novel Castorp centers on one such nodal city, Danzig/Gdańsk, in order to respond to Thomas Mann's meditation on cosmopolitanism in The Magic Mountain. Castorp is also a postcolonial response to the canonical German text; it calls for rememorizing and reimagining the presence of German history in the Polish landscape. Drawing on Jacques Derrida's On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, this article argues that the postcolonial perspective of Castorp offers not an accusation but a call for a cosmopolitan reconciliation and inclusiveness. Huelle does not provide a nationalist re-reading of the past, but a complex review of overlapping identities that cannot be reduced to a simplistic German-Polish dialectic. Rather than writing back in the sense of striking back, Huelle invites us to understand his city in a “deep time” — to use Wai Chi Dimock's phrase — that includes, rather than erases, its German past.
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Ania Spyra; Between Theory and Reality: Cosmopolitanism of Nodal Cities in Paweł Huelle's Castorp. Comparative Literature 1 September 2012; 64 (3): 286–299. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-1672952
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