Cities of the Future

June 15, 2016

Ten writers on the places they immigrated from, returned to, remember, call home.
Illustration by Jason Arias.

The White Center (Istanbul)

By Kaya Genç

While neighborhoods are being redeveloped, their histories are being used to advertise their future. History has become a marketing tool. Make use of the past and create the future with it: this is familiar for a country whose national ideology is built on an endless cycle of self-invention.

I Didn’t Leave My Heart in Beijing (Beijing)

By Xiaolu Guo

The future of Beijing? That depends on the many currents running through the political seas of the country, and the world around it. Will it be the capital of the last communist country on earth? Will it be the capital of the wealthiest capitalist economy? Will some semblance of its former beauty return?

The Avenue of Faiths (Tehran)

By Salar Abdoh, with thanks to Habibe Jafarian

n the crowded bus there was an Iraqi woman who was utterly lost; she did not know where her hotel was. With their broken Arabic, the other riders managed to figure out where she was staying and told the driver. The driver, in turn, halted the bus right in front of the Iraqi woman’s hotel— the hotel of a woman from a country Iran had fought a bloody eight-year war with.

Bitter Almond Bushes (Cape Town)

By Rachel Holmes

Cape Town is blessed in the beauty pageant of luxury tourism. Hotels, swimming pools, golf courses, and gated playgrounds proliferate to pamper the wealthy. No bounty from the seductions of one of the world’s most vibrant, pluralistic cities is shared with the low-waged who make this wealth.

A Snowy Bogotá (Bogotá)

By Ingrid Rojas Contreras

When I go back to Bogotá, I like to share my knowledge of the car bombs that went off in the city in the ’80s and ’90s. I helpfully point out the gory details to cab drivers and friends. I press my finger on the window and point at corners, “That’s the spot where an ATM blew up, seven dead.”

Another Independence (New Delhi)

By Rana Dasgupta

It is already becoming clear that the efficacy of the old imperial strategy of “divide and rule”—caste against caste, religion against religion, temporary worker against permanent—is running out. The ability of India’s rural poor to endure cruelty is admittedly stupendous, but it is not, as their industrial overlords fondly believed, infinite.

New York, My Love (New York)

By Frederic Tuten

The hospital is gone, another going, our clinic is gone, our local supermarket gone and another about to leave; a church, its school and active playground, are gone. Once people could live near where they worked, but now they can’t afford to and, in any case, where they worked no longer exists.

The Bubble (Tel Aviv)

By Etgar Keret, translated by Sondra Silverston

During the difficult times that the bleeding Middle East as a whole and Israel in particular are enduring, times of religious fundamentalism, violence, racism, and despair, Tel Aviv has indeed been a bubble—a bubble that continues to draw to it many who still believe we can build a better future through action and not just through prayer.

The Boa’s Embrace (Mexico City)

By Daniel Saldaña París, translated by Lizzie Davis

The hyper-diversification of narco-capitalism will produce fantastic dealers, who, for interested parties, will offer tanks of oxygen, water for human consumption, and substandard drugs, the kind whose memory lives on for days in the form of jaw pain and bloodshot eyes.

Those Who Stay (Dublin)

By Dan Sheehan

The government will finally run out of excuses and be forced to hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment, also known as the constitutional ban on abortion. Despite all the progress we’ve made, a woman’s right to choose still represents a Brave New World for Ireland, and many will fight tooth and nail to maintain its continuing inaccessibility.