Derelict skyscrapers are not uncommon in the city centre, because when they get old its easier and cheaper to build afresh somewhere new than to knock down and start again. These bricked-up towers rot into squats and vertical shanty towns, awaiting the eraser of redevelopment. In some neighbourhoods, there is so little green and so much concrete that during afternoon storms the streets simply flood. The roads themselves become gutters, as if the buildings were the beings for whom the city was intended, and humans their waste.
But turn a corner and you might find lush foliage, pristine pavements, smoked-glass security gatehouses, and deep, glinting swimming pools. For every wrecked no-go area there is an optimistic new condominium; for every rotting ruin a daring new spire. The city is being reclaimed all the time, either by the forces of development or those of deterioration: the only constant is its power to change. Mobility is celebrated to the point that whole highways are named in honour of Workers and Immigrants. That is why for every desperate hopeful arriving today from the northeast, and every Japanese, Italian, or Lebanese who pitched up in previous years, the city is a stronghold to be stormed; a glaring citadel of opportunity, with swarms coming from all sides to hurl themselves at its ramparts, prepared to end up dead on the walls if they fail. But they must not fail.
Excerpted from Heliopolis by James Scudamore. Copyright © 2010 by James Scudamore. Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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