The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ursula K le Guin says, “You can’t talk about Miéville without using the word “brilliant”. I concur!
Falling into a maelstrom best describes my reaction to this book. The whole notion of Surrealism has fascinated me for many years. I am probably, along with most people, familiar with the work of Salvador Dali. However, reading The Last Days of New Paris reveals so many more of the Surrealist artists, writers, and sculptors. Their creations take form and manifest in the story. The creations are the story.
This is a new universe. It is terrifying and unpredictable.
Once again, Miéville confounds me with his wit, intelligence, and his vocabulary. Here are a few that I had to research. I have put them in context and followed with the definition and some explanation.
“He spoke in passé simple and imparfait: he was never other than ambiguous about whether what he was telling me a story, though his explanations of the city’s quiddity, of its history, his descriptions of the streets and landscapes of New Paris, were completely vivid” (pp174-175).
Quiddity: 1 [mass noun] chiefly Philosophy the inherent nature or essence of someone or something.
2 a distinctive feature; a peculiarity. In scholastic philosophy, “quiddity” (/ˈkwɪdɪti/; Latin: quidditas) was another term for the essence of an object, literally its “whatness” or “what it is”.
“About New Paris itself, he never spoke with anything other than the most wrenching oneiric.” (pp176).
Oneiric: adjective, formal relating to dreams or dreaming. The study of oneirology can be distinguished from dream interpretation in that the aim is to quantitatively study the process of dreams instead of analyzing the meaning behind them.
“I would ask questions, and he might answer and our interaction became an interview of excursuses, at times for an hour or more, before returning to the main track of Thibault and Sam’s journey through the ruins of New Paris” (pp176).
Excursuses: noun, a detailed discussion of a particular point in a book, usually in an appendix. • a digression in a written text. (It is worth looking excursuses up in full. I wish I’d had this word in my vocabulary when I was writing my thesis)!
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