Looking out over London early one morning, Henry Perowne, the main character in Saturday, thinks that “the city is a success, a brilliant invention, a biological masterpiece—millions teeming around the accumulated and layered achievements of the centuries, as though around a coral reef, sleeping, working, entertaining themselves, harmonious for the most part, nearly everyone wanting it to work” (5). This positive view of contemporary urban life is reinforced by the epigraph from Herzog, in which Saul Bellow’s character celebrates the city as a kind of “beautiful super machinery opening a new life for innumerable mankind” (n.p.). Herzog’s image, like Perowne’s, is reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s modernist vision of a “radiant city,” intended to serve as the answer to the question: “What kind of a life should a machine age man really lead?” (Radiant City, 105). Certainly, with its praise of the vast technological resources of modern urban living, from traffic circulation to humble inventions such as the electric tea kettle, McEwan’s rendition of contemporary London life, conveyed by a third-person narrator but virtually exclusively focalized through Perowne’s privileged perspective, verges on the Utopian.
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