The city and the city book
Review: The City and the City by China Miéville | Books | The GuardianWhat separates them is not a conventional border — though there is one, which can be crossed with a passport — but the equally impenetrable barriers set up by law and custom. So two houses may sit next to one another, one in Ul Qoma, the other in Beszel: the inhabitants will never meet, talk or even glance at one another; two people can walk down the same pavement side by side, one in Beszel, the other in Ul Qoma, never bumping into one another, and each seeing a different set of passers-by, shops, beggars. It begins to look as though Mahalia Geary has endangered this age-old order. The City and the City is not a conventionally well-made novel, but it sparks thought in a way that more conventional novels would never dare to. Love puzzles? Get the best at Telegraph Puzzles. Books on Amazon.
The City and the City by China Miéville: review
A four-part television adaptation by the BBC was broadcast in These two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but via the volition of their citizens and the threat of the secret power known as Breach , they are perceived as two different cities. A denizen of one city must dutifully "unsee" that is, consciously erase from their mind or fade into the background the denizens, buildings, and events taking place in the other city — even if they are an inch away. This separation is emphasised by the style of clothing, architecture, gait, and the way denizens of each city generally carry themselves. Residents of the cities are taught from childhood to recognise things belonging to the other city without actually seeing them.
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The divided city is an anxiety of our time: Jerusalem, Belfast, Berlin. Here, we have a location apparently somewhere in the Balkans, on the boundary of two states with interlocking capitals, Ul Qoma and Beszel. A long history of dispute has ensured that citizens can meet only under the most difficult circumstances and both governments are obsessed with controlling access.
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Yet this same book was honored with the Hugo as best science fiction novel of the year. And readers might be equally justified in describing this story as an extravagant exercise in fantasy literature. On the other hand, a close reading of this strange novel shows that every episode described in its pages can be interpreted in strictly realistic terms, with no need to posit a single invention, technology or creature not pos- sible within the limits of today's scientific know-how. Such is the richness of this genre-bending novel, that no classification is definitive, and any pigeonhole where you find it tells you less about the work itself and more about the person who placed it there. Yet a simple conceit underscores this complexity.