“Droll, analytical, and quietly furious”: Patrick Keiller’s The View From the Train praised in Icon and The Independent


In 2013, The View from the Train made both the Financial Times and the Observer’s list of Books of the Year for 2013. Since the beginning of 2014, more praises for the book’s insights about urban and rural space in Britain have appeared in Icon and The Independent.

In Icon, Sukhdev Sandhu praised Patrick Keiller’s The View from the Train for being “a valuable introduction to Keiller’s intellectual and political preoccupations.” Sandhu also called Keiller “one of this country’s most important geographers of the past quarter of a century.”

According to Sandhu, Keiller is fascinated by urban dilapidation, “buildings and developments that may not be especially attractive to the eye,” in which he finds a “perverse glamour”. This fascination, however, is not in Keiller’s book an end in itself, but a way of “poeticising our relationship with their dilapidation.” Hence the aesthetic lineage, which Sandhu highlights, with surrealism and its political implications. Like the great French poet Louis Aragon, Sandhu writes, Keiller “is keen for surrealism to be seen as a tool for political transformation rather than just a visual style.” A way of reclaiming the cutting-edge of “psychogeography”, a “buzzword” which “has mostly lost its insurgent, socially radical associations and become a byword for near-antiquarian mooching.”

In The Independent, Ian Thomson called The View from the Train “a delightful journey in search of Britain's urban hinterlands.” Like Sandhu, Thomson points to the great literary tradition of poets and writers who were fascinated by London: Rimbaud, of course, but also Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas De Quincey, or Guillaume Apollinaire.

Thomson also emphasizes the “dark if oddly attractive allure” that city dilapidation, with its “ detergent-tainted waterways and disused factories” seems to hold for Keiller.

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