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312 pages, Hardcover
First published May 26, 2009
"We are all philosophers here where I am, and we debate among many other things the question of where it is that we live."But the mystery plot, albeit engaging and interesting, feels just as an excuse to introduce the reader to the fascinating world of quasi-Eastern European twin cities of Beszél and Ul Qoma. The cities are the true protagonists, not Detective Berlú whose character is little more than an outline, the window into this world. Once a single city, Beszél and Ul Qoma were split apart by a mysterious Cleavage centuries ago.
"From that historically brief quite opaque moment, came the chaos of our material history, an anarchy of chronology, of mismatched remnants that delighted and horrified investigators."
"It's not just us keeping them apart. It's everyone in Beszél and everyone in Ul Qoma. Every minute, every day. We're only the last ditch: it's everyone in the cities who does most of the work. It works because you don't blink. That's why unseeing and unsensing are so vital. No one can admit it doesn't work. So if you don't admit it, it does. But if you breach, even if it's not your fault, for more than the shortest time ... you can't come back from that."As usual, Miéville presents us with superb and sophisticated world-building. The both cities are vivid and memorable, the atmosphere in both is depicted with skill and depth, and the nuances of this world are revealed subtly and unobtrusively without overt clunky exposition. As I came to expect from him, China Miéville takes a concept that is rather difficult to swallow - the duality of this world, relying on little else but the tradition to keep it going - and develops it so well that by the end of the book it felt real to me.
On many levels this novel is a testament to [CM’s] admirable integrity. Keeping his grip firmly on an idea which would quickly slip from the hands of a less skilled writer, Miéville again proves himself as intelligent as he is original.EXACTLY.
Ul Qoman man and Bes maid, meeting in the middle of Copula Hall, returning to their homes to realise that they live, grosstopically, next door to each other, spending their lives faithful and alone, rising at the same time, walking crosshatched streets close like a couple, each in their own city, never breaching, never quite touching, never speaking a word across the border. (p. 133)
"Πώς θα μπορούσε κάποιος να μη σκεφτεί τις ιστορίες με τις οποίες μεγαλώσαμε; Τις ιστορίες με τις οποίες σίγουρα μεγάλωσαν και οι κάτοικοι της Ουλ Κόμα. Άντρας από την Ουλ Κόμα και νέα από τη Μπεσέλ συναντιούνται στο Μέγαρο Ζεύξης και επιστρέφουν στα σπίτια τους, για να συνειδητοποιήσουν ότι γεωπροσδιοριστικά μένουν σε διπλανά σπίτια. Συνεχίζουν τη ζωή τους νομότυπα αλλά μόνοι, ξυπνώντας την ίδια ώρα, περπατώντας σε αλληλοπλεγμένους δρόμους δίπλα δίπλα σαν ζευγάρι, ο καθένας στην πόλη του, χωρίς να παραβιάζουν, χωρίς καν να αγγίζουν ο ένας τον άλλο, χωρίς να αφήνουν ούτε μια λέξη να περάσει τα σύνορα".