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192 pages, Paperback
First published August 9, 2016
Jags of ruin, a fallen outline. Framed against the flat bright sky to the north-east, the Eiffel Tower looms. The tower's steepling top half dangles where it has always been, where the Pont d'Iéna meets the Quai Branly, above ordered gardens, but halfway to earth the metal ends. There's nothing tethering it to the ground. It hangs, truncated. A flock of the brave remaining birds of Paris swoop below the stumps of its struts, forty storeys up. The half-tower points with a long shadow.Other Surrealist images are not so benign. The year is 1950. The Nazis have won the war, at least in Paris, and have locked the city down. But their control is not absolute. Various resistance groups operate in the arrondissements, and strange beings haunt the streets, such as a centaur figure that is half-woman, half-bicycle, or a huge furry eyeball, or an "exquisite corpse" several storeys tall, comprised of disparate parts, sculptural, mechanical, or human. These are known as "manifs," a term that Miéville does not explain at first. But the reader eventually realizes that they are manifestations of imaginary figures created by Surrealist artists in the thirties, and let loose upon the world when a device known as the "S-blast" exploded one afternoon in the Café Deux Magots. Interpolated chapters set on the Côte d'Azur in 1941 tell how the device became charged with such awesome power.
"The poets and artists and philosophers, resistance activists, secret scouts and troublemakers (the Main à plume), had become, as they must, soldiers."
Perhaps some understanding of the nature of the manifs of New Paris, of the source and power of art and manifestation, may be of some help to us, in times to come.