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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more


The Unscience Fiction of China Miéville's The City and The City

Friday, October 12, 2012


China Miéville's The City and the City is about two opposing city-states that coexist, not only side by side but also overlapping, the buildings of each blended indistinctly together. In order to maintain a coherent division between the two societies that cohabit this architectural warren, the citizens have adopted a peculiar behavioural code. Even when walking down ostensibly the same street, the Ul Quomans must pretend not to see or engage with the citizens of Beszel, and vice versa, a process labelled as "unseeing." Failure to unsee what is right in front of one's eyes leads to the invocation of Breach, a name given both to the act itself and to the sinister state force that punishes it. A Beszel citizen can stand in a space that also belongs to Ul Qoma, physically inhabiting territory belong to both cities simultaneously, but he or she must maintain the fiction that only their own city and people actually exist.

This is not, in the moment of reading the novel, as perplexing as it sounds in a quick summary. Yet what is most interesting about The City and the City is not the problematic coexistence of two cities that share the same geographical space, but the way in which the novel itself sits adjacent to, overlapping with, or imposed upon, our own reality.

To continue reading this essay, click here.

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Posted by Alistair at 8:31 am

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