Scholarship on literary renderings of the urban has focussed primarily on poverty and thus contributed to a somewhat one-sided perception of social inequalities. For the sake of a more comprehensive perception of the social asymmetries shaping today's cities, this essay focuses on urban wealth and explores its centrality to three neoliberal city-novels written in the first decade of this century: Ian McEwan's Saturday (2005), Richard Flanagan's The Unknown Terrorist (2006), and Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger (2008). To explore how these three otherwise quite dissimilar texts represent the perceived "fantastic conspicuousness of consumption and affluence" (Baudrillard 25) in modern cities, the essay considers voices in urban studies critiquing the once optimistic understanding of cities as "wealth machines" (Molotch) and draws on Andrea Brighenti's theoretical deconstruction of the popular equation of visibility with power and invisibility with powerlessness. Conspicuousness, it submits, is only one side of urban wealth; another is, as the three novels under study show, the typical intangibility of capital power, enforced by an intricate interplay of exposure and concealment of urban wealth and itself enforcing social divides in cities.


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pp. 117-139
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