Wednesday, 2 June 2010


Lindsay Duguid reviewing [TLS May 28 2010, p.9] reviews Philip Davies’ Lost London 1870-1945 and its ‘collection of photographs from the English Heritage archives spanning seventy five years from 1870 ... the solemn static images of the city and its inner suburbs taken from an unshowy vantage point with the aim of recording streets and buildings on the point of demolition’, puts it nicely:
The solemnity of these photographs with their deep chiaroscuro and pale skies are full of a melancholy pleasure, a conflicted nostalgia for something we never knew.
My first thought, here, is: but we did and do know ‘London’, in that our ‘knowing’ depends upon a sense of the city’s buried and demolished past spectrally superposed over its vital present. But then I thought: isn’t this closer to a definition of ‘nostalgia’ tout court? We feel more nostalgic for things lost that we never knew than for things we did, partly because the latter are never truly lost, and partly precisely because nostalgia is an iteration of loss, and never having had something is an intenser version of loss than having and letting go.

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