Imagining London : the urban geographies of Iain Sinclair's *London Orbital* and Zadie Smith's *NW*



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In World City, Doreen Massey traces how two strong narratives about London have dominated political rhetoric about the city since the 1960s, creating a rigid “geographical imagination” that has been perpetuated through the government and business up to the contemporary moment. Two writers very attentive to these questions about how places in London are overwritten with particular narratives—Iain Sinclair and Zadie Smith—draw specific attention to the built environment as a complex and integral part of the problem Massey identifies. Sinclair’s London Orbital: A Walk Around the M25 and Smith’s NW both perform practices of perceiving and engaging space—that could also be called mapping—in ways that foreground how spatial imaginations are at play in everyday life. Through these practices, which have a strong affinity with Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of mapping in One Thousand Plateaus, their works explore how what happens in London confounds the stultified geographical imagination that Massey describes. As a result, their books incite fundamental shifts in narrow conceptions of space through experimenting with form and genre. London Orbital and NW imagine real worlds, but rather than taking on realism’s focus on human subjectivity in the form of character, they investigate the architectures of London to describe how a multitude of objects and structures and, of course, people, make and remake the city. Their formal attention to space allows them to imagine a distribution of agency among human actors and the built environment.