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WARNING, WHOPPING SPOILERS AHEAD. I write these pages as notes, records and reminders to myself of books I have read. You are welcome to peruse these reviews, but be warned that they will spoil your reading pleasure if you have not already read them.
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The Last Days of New Paris   by China Mieville

Read: 2018-08-01 Reviewed: 2020-09-01
Re-read factor:

This is just so different to anything else I’ve ever read. Paris was hit by a cataclysmic disaster engineered during World War II, wherein surrealist art comes alive with consequences obverse to humanity. The city becomes a sealed-in war zone.

[Massive spoiler coming up; if you are intending to read this book for the first time you really should skip past this chapter.] It is essentially the travails of a man and new-found companion through the unruly streets, looking for, and eventually finding, a way out. But the journey is astonishing, and the ending amazing: an obscure painting with no face moves through the provinces and empties all the properties of people, leaving a tidy emptiness behind. It is Adolf Hitler’s self-portrait! It turns out he was a rubbish painter, couldn’t do faces and instead painted cityscapes of empty houses.

I think the only slight downer is that the man is accompanied through his journeys by a manifestation of a work called the Exquisite Corpse: a collage of body parts and machinery roughly approximating a grotesque man. This thing is at first really menacing, and then becomes quite lame and follows the twosome around like a silent dog on an invisible tether. This is a very strange relationship, not really developed in the text and kind of drags like an anchor through the story. The manifestation does play a small part in the proceedings, but not enough to justify the gravitas it carries and the lack of development of this plot device makes it feel like an after-thought.

It is a strange and wonderful book, and made all the more astonishing by the author’s afterword in which he describes the strange events that happened to him, in real life, that led to the creation of the book as a legacy of someone he met once and chatted to for a whole day, reciting the outline of the novel.

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