Tuesday, March 15, 2016

BBC Two and "The City And The City" - China Miéville


Something to look forward to later this year. BBC Two has commissioned "The City And The City" in four hour-long episodes. Inspector Tyador Borlú, of the Extreme Crime Squad, Besźel, will soon be investigating the murder of Mahalia Geary.
"The City & the City takes place in the cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma. The precise location of these cities is not described. However, various references in the book indicate that the cities are perhaps in the coastal Black Sea region of south-central Europe: Besź smugglers traffic in goods from Varna, Bulgaria and Bucharest, Romania; protagonist Tyador Borlú enjoys his coffee in the Turkish style.

"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. Ignoring the separation, even by accident, is called "breaching" – a terrible crime by the citizens of the two cities, even worse than murder."
How will they deal with "unseeing"? Perhaps they'll 'fade out' the other city?

"The City And The City" is my favourite China Miéville novel. It has weaknesses in both plot and characterisation, but I have never seen 'the social construction of reality' better realised.

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In other news, Arthur C. Clarke's 'Childhood's End' comes as a three-part series to Sky 1 at 9 pm this Thursday (repeated a few hours later, deep in the night, on Sky 2).

Mr Clarke's rather clunky fiction has largely gone out of fashion - who reads it any more? - but 'Childhood's End' is clever, has genuine plot surprises and is filled with a galactic sense of wonder.

I do hope they do it justice.

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