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Gli ultimi giorni della nuova Parigi

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1941. A Marsiglia nel caos della guerra, l'ingegnere americano e discepolo occulto Jack Parsons cerca di catturare e incanalare il potere immaginativo dei surrealisti, al fine di sconfiggere il Reich. Il suo esperimento cambierà il corso della guerra - e il volto della città - per sempre.
1950. Il surrealista Thibaut, cammina per le vie di una nuova e allucinogena Parigi, dove i nazisti e la Resistenza sono intrappolati in un conflitto senza fine, e dove le strade sono infestate da immagini e testi viventi - e dalle forze dell'inferno. Per fuggire dalla città, Thibaut dovrà unire le forze con Sam, un fotografo americano intento a documentare le atrocità del conflitto. Ma quando Sam viene cacciato, emergeranno nuovi e inquietanti segreti che metteranno alla prova tutte le loro convinzioni sulla lealtà dell'uno verso l'altro, sulla vecchia e la nuova Parigi, e sulla realtà stessa che li circonda.

192 pages, Paperback

First published August 9, 2016

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About the author

China Miéville

149 books13.7k followers
A British "fantastic fiction" writer. He is fond of describing his work as "weird fiction" (after early 20th century pulp and horror writers such as H. P. Lovecraft), and belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird who consciously attempt to move fantasy away from commercial, genre clichés of Tolkien epigons. He is also active in left-wing politics as a member of the Socialist Workers Party. He has stood for the House of Commons for the Socialist Alliance, and published a book on Marxism and international law.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,132 reviews
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,852 reviews16.4k followers
June 9, 2019
Literary Dali.

Magritte in manuscript.

China Mieville throws an S bomb (surrealist blast) into an alternate history Nazi occupied Paris and all hell breaks loose.

You’re a weird one Mr. Mieville – and that’s a big reason why we love you.

Taking pages from his Embassytown and The City & the City play books, Mieville hits a homerun and provides a clear demonstration of his talent in this sparklingly unorthodox 2016 publication.

The Nazis are still alive and kicking and occupying Paris in 1950. But this is a far different Paris than the City of Lights we know. After an “S Blast”, a surrealistic nightmare has mutated the city and sparked a cordoning off by the occupying Nazis. The partisans and freedom fighters left within must also deal with the living, breathing, fighting and killing forms of surrealistic art that has taken over Paris.

What we the readers find is an incredibly entertaining, steaming hot cup of whatthehellhasMievillecomeupwithnow??? It’s weird, it’s surrealistic and fun as hell.

Describing two related stories, one set in the more or less real France of 1941 with some occult, creepy shenanigans and a completely out of this world 1950 New Paris, Mieville blends elements of alternate history World War II French resistance prose with his own inimitable style of WEIRD. A surrealistic bomb has created a reality where works of art have come alive. I saw resonances of several of his works, but this is a healthy crafting of New Weird.

Having read a few of his works, readers have asked for a recommendation of which of his works would be a good one to start. In the past I’ve said Perdido Street Station, and that’s still a good embarkation point, but I will add new Paris to that list as this is quintessential, classic Mieville.

Profile Image for Cecily.
1,106 reviews3,878 followers
May 24, 2020
This is an epic idea, but as a novel, it's an epic mess. It’s a shame, because it would make an excellent film, a good graphic novel, and a challenging project for humanities undergrads to untangle.

I’ve loved some of Mieville’s works and had high hopes of this, but I quickly felt “the soft decay of actualized dreams”.

By far the best bit was the “afterword”, which is an origin story of this book.
(My enjoyment was 2.5*, but I've rounded up for its educational value - though I had to do all that myself.)

Plot and setting

It’s mostly set in an alternative 1950 when New Paris is still occupied by the Nazis, but is sealed off, because of rampant manifestations of Surrealist artworks.
What had been the world’s prettiest city was now populated by its own unpretty imaginings.
The other thread is Marseilles in 1941.

It features many Surrealist pieces, with a dollop of Les Miserables, and maybe Dan Brown, creating an effect like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, all squeezed into 168 pages (plus 30 pages of notes). But Mieville tells and never shows the artworks.

Plotwise (if that’s not overstating the word), it’s more of a wartime political action thriller than anything to do with art. It’s crammed with spies, Surrealists, magical nightwear, guerillas, cryptic messages, fighting, Nazis, playing cards, Free French, Main à plume, devils, double agents, escapes, occultists, a rocket scientist, a rogue bishop, and plundering black marketeers.

If Mieveille was trying to make the plot as bewildering as Surrealist art, he succeeded, though that may be me more than him.

The last four pages are good

A little blank-faced nonentity bringing peace and prettiness.
I finally glimpsed what might have been. Not a pristine Paris, unchanged by war, or recovering from it, but a novel of provocative but intelligible ideas.

Consider these two artworks that feature in the story. Ignore the fact one is Surrealist and the other not, and try not to compare the artists’ skill.

1. Do they provoke different emotions, and do you therefore assume different things about the artists?

2. Could your response to either work be changed by knowing more about their creator?

Details of the one on the left HERE.
And the one on the right HERE, though the answer is a very slight plot spoiler - if there was much plot to spoil.

3. If you clicked, do you feel differently about either of them now?

Before reading this novel

You need to decide how/when/if to read around it. I did a mix of the three below, which was probably the worst approach; pick one and stick to it.

1. Come to it “blind”. Just immerse yourself in its weirdness. When you finish, you can read the notes in the book, look at Surrealist art, read up on related subjects, and maybe reread the book itself.

2. Read the notes as you go, but you need a bit of prep. Keep a marker in the notes section, as there aren’t any endnote indicators in the text itself, and there are five works mentioned on page 11 alone. But the notes are just words, so I suggest you have Nicky Martin’s Graphic Annotations beside you, but if you can manage not to notice details of the very last one before reading, that might be good.

3. Read all around it before you open a page, especially the Surrealist movement and Paris during Nazi occupation. Also, have Nicky Martin’s Graphic Annotations to hand.

Some images from the story: Left to right: “I am an Amateur of Velocipedes” by Leonora Carrington, “Celebes” by Max Ernst, “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” By Dorothea Tanning, “Stone Woman” by Meret Oppenheim, and “Loup Table” by Victor Brauner. (Sources: all in Nicky Martin’s Graphic Annotations - and Google.)

Relevant background before, during, or after reading includes:
• The Nazi occupation of Paris during WW2.
• French Surrealism in general, but especially André Breton.
• The Surrealist Manifesto, written by André Breton and others.
• “Surrealist stay-behinds, soldiers of the unconscious. Main à plume”. It was a publication by Surrealists, including André Breton, during the Nazi occupation, La Main à plume.
Josef Mengele’s experiments on people.
• Collaborator Bishop/Abbé Alesch.
• A game of visual consequences, called Exquisite Corpse, where each person draws part of a figure, folds the paper over, and passes to another person to draw the next bit (as below).

Image: Exquisite Corpses: on the left by André Breton, Man Ray, Max Morise, Yves Tanguy , and on the right by Andre Breton, Yves Tangu, Jacqueline Lamba.
(Source and Source.)

Only after reading the book:
• In the story, “Fall Rot” is a mysterious message, and what it’s revealed to be is slightly different in the real WW2 version.
• The main character in the 1941 thread is American rocket engineer and occultist Jack Parsons.

Despite the copious notes about many artworks, there are some detailed descriptions that I assume are based on real pieces, but which are not identified.

Tables and chairs, all heaving up and suspended as if about to fly away, then spasming back to their positions… The tables are dancing on their stiff legs. They somersault endlessly at the point of an explosion.

How do you become a Surrealist?

Firstly, do you know what’s the simplest act of Surrealism?
“The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd. Anyone who, at least once in his life, has not dreamed of thus putting an end to the petty system of debasement and cretinization in effect has a well-defined place in that crowd with his belly at barrel-level.” André Breton, Manifestoes of Surrealism.

Thibaut knew that one, so the test continues:
They pointed at certain objects from the junk that filled their cellar, asking him if they were surreal or just trash… When one of the questioners took off his shoe to rub his toe… Thibaut took it… picked up a candlestick he had previously dismissed as a mere object and placed it inside the old leather. ‘Now it’s surreal.’


Image: Object-Phantom by Toyen (Source.)
“‘They live on looking… You can catch them and make them fat by showing them bright colors. Then we roast them.’ The meat was greasy with everything they’d seen.” (a feathered sphere - above)

• “Those who are asleep… are workers and collaborators in what goes on in the world.” (from a Surrealist pamphlet)

• “The altered landscapes… smoothed alpine topographies like sagging drapes, houses of frozen rooms full of clocks, places where the geography echoed itself.”

• “The wind explores the buildings.”

• “Play is insurrection in the rubble of objective chance.”

• “Broken glass that twitches and snaps back into the panes then out again, repeatedly, an oscillating instant of combustion.”

• “The man in the long coat was pouring off light… a tracework of glow, his veins lit under his skin. His hands glimmered… He crooned and icicles formed on the ends of his fingers. Scum tapping power… He drips shadows from his eyes.”

• “The soft decay of actualized dreams fouls his fingers.”
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
659 reviews839 followers
February 27, 2022
“At dawn a great shark mouth appears at the horizon smiling like a stupid angel and chewing silently on the sky.”

Graphic Annotations of China Miéville's The Last Days of New Paris | by Nicky Martin | Medium

I'm not sure what it says about China Miéville's The Last Days of New Paris, or about me, that I liked the Afterword better than the rest of the book. Last Days features an alternate history of Paris under Nazi occupation in 1950, and surrealistic machines known as exquisite corpses on the streets. Lots and lots of references to surrealism. This was both interesting as a background for the action (because I happen to like French surrealistic poetry), but also confusing because I didn't understand where Miéville wanted to go with it. 3.25 stars
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,670 followers
August 15, 2016
"Can living artwork die? Can it live before it dies?"
-- China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris


As a reader who is drawn to art as much as to books, Miéville novella came as a messy, strange treat. The concept is relatively simple. Imagine a New Paris transformed in 1941, by "virtue" of an occultish weapon to fight the Nazis, into a ghetto where Nazi's and French Resistance continue their battles into the 50s along side Surreal artist and Surreal art that has been made living. Oh, and the forces of Hell are also involved in this battle for Paris.

"...a figure with the head of a singing bird, its body a clock with the pendulum swinging, its legs a mass of fish tails dearly done in pen and ink. A sketched out bear face on a coffin, walking on clown feet. A mustached man, rendered as if by a child, his body a buxom leopard's, rooted like a plant. Exquisite corpses, tasting new wine."

It wouldn't be a Miéville novel if he didn't twist and shove even this funky idea into grotesque and quirky corners. It wasn't a great Miéville, but it was still fascinating. Here is a man, built by God or Demon, to create new, weird worlds. Miéville is someone who can read Anne Vernay and Richard Walter's La Main à plume : Anthologie du surréalisme sous l'Occupation and perhaps a couple more books on Surrealist art during the War years and mix it with a bit of Nazi occultism, and BOOM! -- here is your book Del Rey. I think CM is one of the more exciting voices in SF in the 21st century. He is constantly pushing for new ideas, bring in radical politics, philosophy, art, and turn them into stories that are fresh.

He is one SF writer who I find myself buying each new book he publishes new. There are only a handful of living writers who I do that for. That alone, is probably all the review you need.
Profile Image for Ivan.
415 reviews272 followers
September 21, 2018
I'm not sure wtf I just read and on what shelf I should put this but I liked it a lot. Any book that has sentient piece of surreal art fighting nazi made demon can't be bad. Of course this is China Mieville so this is very weird, well written with some very cleaver moments and ideas.

Actual review might come if I ever figure out what to say and how to say it but I do have strong opinion about this. For now if you are fan of his works that this is must read and if you are unfamiliar with him than this isn't book to start.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,161 reviews2,010 followers
December 25, 2019
I can only imagine that China Miéville would be the most amazing person to invite to dinner. His imagination knows no bounds and he couples this with a huge amount of knowledge about his topic.

For The Last Days of New Paris the main topic was surrealist art. Imagine Paris in 1950 in an alternate history where Germany has not lost the war. The use of an S-Bomb in Paris has caused figures from surrealist art to come alive. All of the figures Mieville uses are from real art works and not just from famous ones. His research and knowledge must border on being obsessional!

I enjoyed this book very much and was happy that I kept up despite not knowing much at all about Surrealism. It all worked for me.
Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,452 reviews12.8k followers
March 30, 2017
If you ever wanted to read a book about a guy smelling his own farts for 160 pages, this one’s for you! “Ohh (fart), I’m (fart) China (fart) Mieville and, oooh (fart) I know sooooo (fart) much (fart) about (fart) Surrealism! (FAAAAARRRRTTT)”

Surrealistic art comes to life and starts attacking Nazis in WW2 in China Mieville’s The Last Days of New Paris. That’s both the premise and the “plot” of this steaming pile of book!

This is partly my fault for not reading the blurb and just launching myself straight into it because the utterly stupid premise might have deterred me if I’d looked into it more. Surrealist art coming to life and attacking Nazis. Ok. Why would they attack Nazis? And why only surrealist art - why no other kinds? We’re never told.

But it should be sorta fun, right? It’s not. Art attacks Nazis, the French Resistance attack Nazis and occasionally fend off the art… there’s really no story at all here. In fact there’s really no anything here. Even if you’re not a huge sci-fi fan like me, the bland characters, crap dialogue, dreary descriptions, and zero sense of meaning or purpose to anything are guaranteed to turn you off. It was such a passive reading experience for me - it completely failed to draw me in at all.

I’ve only read one other China Mieville book which was his comic for DC’s New 52 line, Dial H, and that was badly written too (are weird monsters fighting bad guys a theme in all of Mieville’s books?). I think he’s just a terrible writer who has no clue how to tell a story well yet who’s popular for some reason - a description you could apply to unfortunately too many writers these days!

The Last Days of New Paris was the worst novel I’ve read in years. I’m never reading anything by this author again and would strongly urge anyone contemplating this nonsensical swill to read something far more stimulating like a curiously-stained lunch napkin instead. I’m not sure if it was meant to be informative but I learned nothing about the surrealist movement and, rather than cultivate any interest in it, Mieville has ensured I will continue to know next to nothing about it for a long time to come!
Profile Image for Roger Brunyate.
946 reviews635 followers
November 3, 2016
Surrealism Made Manifest

The photo on the cover shows a view of the Eiffel Tower with the lower part obscured by mist. A picturesque scene—but no, in China Miéville's alternate-reality novella, the lower part of the tower really is not there; the pinnacle floats on its own in mid-air:
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.

Fantasy is not normally my thing, but two things kept me reading. One, as always, is Miéville's mastery of the English language, such as his description of the Eiffel Tower above. The other is the fact the Miéville knows his stuff. The names of the artists and writers he mentions are all real, though many of them were new to me despite my training as an art historian. He includes a 24-page appendix on the origin of each manif. He brings in fairly obscure references that will nonetheless be known to readers of the literature of the Occupation. Indeed, the density of his references, the detail of his knowledge of Paris, and his ability to see the sinister even in the most ordinary streets remind me very much of early Patrick Modiano, the Occupation laureate par excellence—and that, from me, is praise.

Did I enjoy it? Not especially, but only because I am unmoored by the genre. But was I fascinated? Yes indeed—and fans of the fantastic will be even more so.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,230 reviews1,003 followers
October 31, 2016
Read for book club (although, again, I didn't make the meeting), and also because I'm a fan. Unfortunately, this summoned up less enthusiasm in me than anything I've read from Miéville recently. (I'd been really, really hoping that this would be set in the same world as 'This Census-Taker,' but alas, it is unrelated.)

The concept is clever - perhaps a bit too 'cute' - but I didn't feel that the story and characters lived up to it. It seemed that the idea came first, not a burning need to illustrate this particular story or a desire to bring these characters to life. The idea is that in WWII Paris, a devastating "S-Blast" occurred which changed everything, apocalyptically. The "S" in "S-Blast" stands for Surrealism, and what the event did was the bring all manner of creatures and concepts previously seen only in the artwork of creators from that school, to life. So Paris is teeming and crawling with bizarre and grotesque manifestations ("manifs.")

The narrative cuts between past and present:

In the past (1941) we gradually discover what events led up to the S-Blast, as we follow an engineer and anti-Nazi activist with an interest in the occult, as he tries to angle an introduction to what he has heard is a remarkable and subversive group of artists.

In the present (1950) a resistance fighter in occupied Paris meets a bold photographer who claims that she is documenting the manifs in this war zone for a book of photojournalism. But is that goal all - or even part of - her true agenda?

If you're a big fan of the surrealist art movement, it will likely tickle you to see familiar artworks brought to 'life' through the pages of this novella. But the plot didn't quite live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. My favorite part was actually the afterword/framing device at the end, which for some reason, I just loved.
Profile Image for David Katzman.
Author 3 books446 followers
December 7, 2018
I think the big appeal of Miéville is his boundless imagination. He’s come up with many highly original premises for books. Where he tends to fall down is crafting characters that feel real and that the reader can invest in. Unfortunately, The Last Days of New Paris falls into this trap. In addition, being a novella rather than a full-length novel, it becomes more of an imaginative premise than a full and fulfilling story.

My opinions on Miéville have run the gamut. Five stars for Kraken, three stars for Embassytown, and one star for Perdido Street Station. And now two stars for The Last Days of New Paris. It was really just “okay.”

The premise is certainly interesting. It’s World War II in Paris. Paris has become a walled city enclosed by the Nazis. A magic event of some kind went off, like a magic bomb, and it caused the images and ideas of Surrealist artists and poets to come to physical life and stalk the streets of Paris. These Surrealist forms are generally combatting the Nazis but are also dangerous to locals. They are preventing the Nazis from rolling through Paris and taking control, but they aren’t exactly on the French side either. Their behavior is dangerous and relatively random. The Nazis are attempting to combat these Surrealist manifestations (called “manifs”) by creating their own and in addition are summon demons from hell to do their bidding. (I won’t consider this a spoiler because the book description mentions the forces of Hell.)

This latter aspect, Nazis aligning themselves with Hell and summoning demons, seemed far too obvious. The core idea was rich enough. I could have seen an entire book around modern weapons fighting abstract creatures come to life from paintings. But Miéville felt the need to bring in Hell figures. So Nazis are evil? Is this news? Did we really need it to be shown literally in that way? And further, it seems to completely ruin the intriguing metaphor of the artistic imagination coming to life and combatting the forces of Hitler. Art versus fascism is a great story! Unfortunately, it’s not quite what we get here. How do Catholic priests summoning demons connect to this premise? It muddies the metaphor.

And further, Miéville’s most common flaw is on display here. The main character, a Surrealist wandering the city and (sort of) fighting Nazis, has very little concrete personality that I could hold on to. Never cared about him. His sidekick, a female who is photographing the manif is similarly opaque.

Overall, this book was a clever idea that just never came together.
Profile Image for R.K. Syrus.
Author 10 books73 followers
December 16, 2015
The author belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird. Nuff said!

He had me at 'surrealist bomb'!

Seriously, in an excellent Joan Gordon interview the author said:

"I don’t start with the graph paper and the calculators like a particular kind of D&D dungeonmaster: I start with an image, as unreal and affecting as possible, just like the Surrealists. But then I systematize it, and move into a different kind of tradition."

"...That’s the sf concern for internal cognitive rigor, and to my mind that makes the polemical point more, not less strong. Mainstream writers don’t trust their readers to make connections. Sf understands that the human mind is an intrinsically metaphorizing machine, and that therefore you do not have to labor the connections to make your point."
Profile Image for Nancy.
415 reviews
January 12, 2017
This is a very unique and interesting story. I have not read anything like this before, it was weird but very good. The idea of using surrealistic art as weapon was mind boggling. The hardest part was just going with the flow of the story instead of trying to make it fit into a logical, orderly pattern. If you are truly looking for something different, this may be the book for you.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
855 reviews2,129 followers
March 2, 2021

"It's An Art Thing"

This novella is a literary work about surrealism, as well as an act of surrealist performance art, an assemblage inspired by and using the techniques of surrealism.

In her insightful review of the novella, Cecily suggests "You need to decide how/when/if to read around it."

Her first alternative is to "Come to it 'blind'."

This is ultimately the approach I adopted, though not consciously. I just started reading, and didn't stop until I finished it.

As a result, I wasn't aware that there was an Afterword or Notes, until I got to the end.


The Afterword was written by China Mieville. It purports to explain how the novella originated, although, like the Introductions to Michael Moorcock's "Pyat Quartet", it's a framing story rather than a truthful explanation. (1)

Mieville claims to have been introduced to the character who would be his chief protagonist (Thibaut), taken extensive notes of their interview/discussions over two days, typed them up, and published them as the novella.

At the time of their meeting, Thibaut was "well into his eighties". He never "lost his restlessness or energy". He was "an utterly compelling storyteller, but a disorganised one." Mieville, the narrator, was "captivated and adrift", but Thibaut "went too fast...and he told events out of order..." and "my notes, made in translation, would falter."

This is a belated explanation of some of the confusion that the reader has just experienced, if you didn't read the Afterword before the body of the text. I'm glad I read the novella in this straightforward manner and sequence, because it afforded me the opportunity to be confused, and then, later, to understand the nature, cause and significance of the confusion. It's arguable that the purpose or role of surrealism is to enlighten by confusion or disorientation.

The Notes

The third and last section of the novella is 22 pages of Notes that contextualise the surrealistic art works that feature in the novella.

It wouldn't be accurate to describe the Notes as footnotes to the body of the narrative. They don't appear at the foot of each page, nor is there any allusion in the text that the Notes will appear later in the book. Thus, it's possible to read the whole text without being aware of the existence of the Notes, until you reach the end of the novella. At this point, although they refer to the page numbers of the body of the text, it's possible to read the Notes as notes to the Afterword, rather than the body of the narrative, which gives the impression that the body of the text is meant to stand alone as a text.

Graphic Annotations

Cecily's review also alerted me to very useful graphic annotations to the novella that were assembled by Nicky Martin here.

These annotations are a valuable resource, because they identify and illustrate the surrealistic art works that are alluded to or described in the text. Although they are almost wholly based on the Notes, they add another dimension of visualisation or manifestation to Mieville's creative work.


Magritte's Self-Portrait with Apple (Father of the Son of Man)

From Manifesto to Manifestation

The plot, to the extent that there is a plot, concerns a cadre of French surrealist artists and writers who have a major role in the French Resistance against the German occupation of France in 1941.

Mieville, being a Marxist, has long been interested in the process of revolution, and the revolutionaries who drive it. He explored his interest, in fiction, in "The Iron Council", and, in non-fiction, in "October: The Story of the Russian Revolution".

The novella purports to be largely Thibaut's story, although the female photographer, Sam, also features throughout. She claims to be recording the artistic activities of the French Underground. Still, it's not clear what level of trust exists between the two protagonists. Is she a spy or a double agent?

The Main à Plume (The Hand with the Quill Pen)

The plot is split between 1941 (when the German occupation of Paris commences, and the cadre is based in Marseille) and 1950 (when Paris is liberated in this alternative historical work).

The liberation is triggered by an event called an "S-Blast" (which stands for a surrealist blast). The S-Blast releases manifestations (or "manifs") of dreams and artistic works by the surrealist artists. The manifs become "living art" or "living images" ("images of demons, and of their victims"), which resist, terrify and frustrate the German occupation forces:

"The poets and artists and philosophers, resistance activists, secret scouts and troublemakers (the Main à plume), had become, as they must, soldiers."

Fall Rot Versus Exquisite Corpse [Possible Thematic Spoiler]

By 1950, the Germans have developed a counter-attack code-named "Fall Rot", which is anticipated throughout the novella, but only revealed and understood at the climax. It consists of a manifestation of a childhood watercolour by Adolf Hitler, which is supposed to represent order and tradition against the perceived decadence and degeneracy of surrealism and other modern art movements.

One of the manifs is called the exquisite corpse, a collective, composite work, the original of which appears on the cover of the novella. It's created by separate artists playing a game which requires each of them in sequence to paint or draw on one part of a folded piece of paper, which is then unfolded to reveal the "random totality" of the composite work.

Its collective character is juxtaposed against the singular mediocrity of Hitler's watercolour, from which the French and the rest of the world) need to be liberated.

It might come as no surprise that, in Mieville's case, the hand that holds the quill matches the hands that hold both the ploughshare and the sword.


1. Michael Moorcock wrote a very positive review of this novel in the New Statesman:

"Can there be such a thing as genuine Nazi art? Is transgressive art naturally allied with the left, and is it therefore a natural enemy of the right? What is “decadent” art? Miéville puts all these questions and arguments in the context of a page-turner whose end left me almost physically applauding."



[Apologies to Patti Smith]

Mary sat at a wolf-table
And ate her breakfast
With a furry spoon.
Then, she fell on her knees,
And started laughing,
Suddenly, Mary
Gets the feeling,
She's been surrounded
By corpses, corpses,
Exquisite corpses,
Corpses, everywhere,
Corpses, corpses, corpses,
Exquisite corpses.

Profile Image for Alexander Páez.
Author 37 books600 followers
August 5, 2016
Imaginaos a Miéville como un químico que coge todas sus novelas y destila unas gotitas de la esencia de cada una. Ahora imaginaos que con esas gotitas, crea un cóctel, breve pero intenso, no demasiado largo, explosivo. Ahí tenéis The Las Days of New Paris. Impresionante Miéville.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,248 reviews218 followers
September 3, 2016
In the bizarre Paris of 1950, 9 years after the S-blast was detonated there, a lone resistance fighter uses his surrealist talents to navigate the deeply weird world of never-ending conflict between surrealist manifestations and the forces of Nazis and Hell itself.

This is mainly the story of Thibaut and an American photographer Sam as they try to deal with the latest horror that the Nazis are throwing at Paris, but we also get the short interweaving story of the S-blast itself and how it came to be. A significant part of this are the living art manifestations which inhabit Paris and fight the Nazis, making surrealists very powerful Resistance fighters. There's a fascinating gazetteer of all the different art pieces that the book references.

For a short book, this definitely took me a while to get into, but once it had me I devoured the rest very quickly. It's Miéville, so you expect a certain density of ideas and beauty in the prose and both are present here. Not quite the brilliance of Embassytown or The City & the City though.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
986 reviews1,114 followers
April 18, 2017
3 and a half stars, rounded up.

If you have read anything by Mieville before, I don't need to tell you the man's brain is a very strange place indeed, and that his intelligence and boundless imagination create the most fascinating and baroque worlds and stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading. This short novel blends tales of occultism and WWII with Mieville's encyclopedic knowledge of Surrealist art.

I feel like the reader's enjoyment of this book will reflect their enjoyment of Surrealist art: if it makes you squee with artful delight, so will the "Last Days of the New Paris". If you usually scratch your head while looking at a Dali painting and wondering what kind of drugs you have to be on to get this, then you may feel like Mieville pushed the New Weird envelope a bit too far.

I'm a bit of a fence-sitter when it comes to Surrealist art (I'm more of an Impressionism and Art Nouveau fan, if we are getting nerdy about it): it's gorgeous and fascinating, but I wouldn't be able to say that I "get" it (whatever that means). The book is appropriately messy and a little confusing, which having read everything else Mieville ever wrote, I can only conclude is 100% deliberate on his part. The man's cleverness intimidates me...

An S-bomb, or Surrealist bomb, was used against the Nazis in Paris during the Occupation, with unpredictable results: an entire section of the city is now isolated for fear that the strange artworks the detonation brought to life will infect other areas. In this little neighborhood of strangeness, the War continued well into the 1950's, the Resistance now having a completely different purpose.

You do not get a lot of world-building right off the bat with "The Last Days of the New Paris": you just watch a half-woman, half-bicycle thing fly right by you and you have no choice but to follow it in this haunted and dangerous version of the City of Lights, where the manifestations of the S-bomb fight a bloody war against demons summoned by the Nazis.

This is not the most accessible China Mieville book out there, and I would be disinclined to recommend it as a first exploration of his incredible work. Newbies would be better off with earlier works, maybe "Kraken" or "Perdido Street Station", because "The Last Days of the New Paris" is really the result of Mieville sharpening his claws over many years of writing. But if you loved "Embassytown" and "The City and The City", this is clearly the next step in China-land. A tough, weird but rewarding read. It will be a delight to hardcore art fans.
Profile Image for Steffi.
948 reviews195 followers
May 12, 2019
Endlich ist der Roman auf Deutsch erschienen, denn am englischen Original bin ich damals gründlich gescheitert. Die Übersetzung zeigt mir auch gleich, woran das lag: Ungewöhnliches Vokabular (Schneiderpuppen, Gallionsfiguren) in Verbindung mit surrealistischen Kunstwerken und phantastischen Handlungselementen – da zweifelt man selbst ohne Sprachbarrieren hin und wieder, ob man das nun alles richtig verstanden hat.

Nun bin ich ja bekanntermaßen nicht der größte Fantasy-Freund, doch zwei Dinge ließen mich nach dem Buch lechzen: Ich habe mich mal intensiver mit dem Emergency Rescue Committee und Varian Fry beschäftigt, die Anfang der 1940er Jahre viele Schriftsteller und Intellektuelle aus Marseille retteten. Etwas außerhalb Marseilles brachte Fry in der Villa Air-Bel einige gefährdete Surrealisten unter, die dort munter weiter produzierten, beispielsweise ein Kartenspiel, das auch in diesem Roman Erwähnung findet, ebenso wie die Villa mit ihren Bewohnern. (Bilder hier https://journaldejane.wordpress.com/2... und weitere Infos auf Französisch hier https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeu_de_...)
Zum anderen habe ich vor einigen Jahren mit großem Genuss Miévilles Dieser Volkszähler gelesen.

Mein Buch also! Und die Lektüre hat (mit Abstrichen) wirklich Spaß gemacht. Es gibt zwei Zeitebenen: In den 1950er Jahren begleiten wir Thibaut durch das sogenannte Neu-Paris, in dem noch immer die Nazis wüten. Auf der anderen Seiten gibt es den surrealistisch inspirierten Widerstand (La Main à plume gab es wirklich, aber auch hier sind nur Informationen auf Französisch verfügbar: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Main...). Durch das Explodieren der S-Bombe haben sich viele surrealistische Kunstwerke manifestiert und wüten nun durch Paris. Sie lassen sich nicht von einer Seite einnehmen, doch hin und wieder scheinen sie sich eher mit den Widerstandskämpfern zu solidarisieren, wie z.B. Der köstliche Leichnam (Cadavre Exquis).

Natürlich versuchen sich auch die Nazis daran, ähnliche Manifestationen zu schaffen und für sich zu nutzen – mit mäßigem Erfolg (dass in dem Zusammenhang am Ende Mengele und Hitler auftreten, war mir dann doch etwas zu viel). Doch haben sich inzwischen Teufel aus der Unterwelt befreit und diese werden von den Nazis instrumentalisiert. Das führt zu einem irren Szenario, das wirklich atemberaubend ist. Allerdings auch sehr fordernd. Zwar helfen Anmerkungen und Nachwort von Miéville bei der Einordnung, aber wirklich toll wäre gewesen, wenn es zahlreiche Farbabbildungen, der ja wirklich existierenden Werke gegeben hätte (ein paar kleine Schwarzweiß-Abbildungen hingegen gibt es). Eine Lücke, die folgende Website schließt: https://medium.com/@Nicky_Martin/grap... . Überhaupt fehlt mir hier das Visuelle und ich denke, eine Adaption als Film könnte gut funktionieren oder zumindest als Graphic Novel.

Auf einer zweiten Zeitebene werden wir in die frühen 1940er Jahre in Marseille entführt, das mehr oder weniger der Realität abgeschaut ist – also in eben das Umfeld von Fry, Breton, Lamba und anderen. Hier liegen die Anfänge der Entwicklungen, die wir im folgenden Jahrzehnt beobachten. Ein wenig phantastisch wird es dann aber auch hier, denn Aleister Crowley, der berühmte Satanist spielt in dieser Fiktion am Rande auch eine Rolle (warum habe ich eigentlich noch nie etwas über oder von Crowley gelesen?).

Ach ja, und ein Paris-Roman ist es auch – der Roman eines arg gebeutelten Paris. Und seit ein paar Wochen liest man solche Zeilen über Notre-Dame mit ganz anderen Bildern im Kopf.

Es ist, als ob Paris sie selbst hinein bitten würde. Auf die Insel, wo Notre-Dame düster aufragt.
Mit der Explosion der S-Bombe haben sich die gedrungenen viereckigen Türme zu beiden Seiten der zentralen Rosette in hohe, ausladende Industriesilos aus grob gehämmertem Metall verwandelt. Aus den schadhaften Dichtungen des einen Silos sickert blutiger Essig hervor: Die Luft ist durchtränkt von einem säuerlichen Gestank, der Boden darunter nass und in Gärung übergegangen. Durch die drahtverstärkten Fenster des zweiten Tanks ist eine wirbelnde dicklich-weiße Masse zu sehen. Es heißt, dass dieses Silo Sperma enthält. Thibaut hat sich oft gewünscht, dass der Himmel ein paar Bomben darauf fallen lässt.

Eine wirklich originell erzählte Geschichte, die Lust auf Surrealismus macht und einem gleichzeitig das Thema Widerstand nahebringt, wenn auch auf kuriose Weise. Dabei bin ich nicht der größte Fan des Surrealismus, aber so wie die Geschichte erzählt wird, steht er auf so beeindruckende Weise für Freiheit, Wildheit und Widerstand, dass er mich sehr für sich einnimmt. Vermutlich wäre mir das Ganze etwas zu schräg gewesen, wenn mich diese Themen nicht so interessierten. Empfehlen kann ich das Buch daher nur den Mutigen.
Profile Image for foteini_dl.
418 reviews117 followers
October 6, 2017
Φανταστείτε έναν κόσμο όπου έργα σουρεαλιστών καλλιτεχνών παίρνουν σάρκα και οστά και περιφέρονται στους δρόμους ενός Νέου Παρισιού (όχι σαν αυτό που έχουμε ακούσει) το 1950.Και αυτό,ενώ οι Ναζί δεν έχουν ηττηθεί.Αν δεν μπορείτε να το φανταστείτε,δεν πειράζει,το έκανε για εσάς ο Mieville.
Στις λίγες σελίδες του βιβλίου,ξετυλίγονται δύο χρόνια,που εναλλάσσονται ανά κεφάλαιο.Από τη μία βρισκόμαστε στη Μαρσέιγ του 1941, όπου ο Parsons,ένας Αμερικάνος μηχανικός και οπαδός του Aleister Crowley,συνεργάζεται με τον Andre Breton και άλλους σουρεαλιστές για να νικήσουν τους Ναζί.Βέβαια,κάτι πάει στραβά στο σχέδιό τους και μεταφερόμαστε στο Νέο Παρίσι το 1950.Εκεί συνεχίζεται η μάχη ανάμεσα στους Ναζί και τη γαλλική αντίσταση,ενώ η πόλη είναι κατεστραμμένη σε κάποιο βαθμό από την έκρηξη κάποιων S-bombs (surrealist blasts).Ταυτόχρονα,στην πόλη κυκλοφορούν τέρατα που έχουν ξεπηδήσει από τη φαντασία σουρεαλιστών καλλιτεχνών (manifs).Ένας νεαρός Γάλλος,ο Thibaut,μια Αμερικανίδα φωτογράφος και ένα πλάσμα (“Exquisite Corpse” απ’τον ομώνυμο πίνακα του Breton) προσπαθούν να νικήσουν τους Ναζί,ενώ οι τελευταίοι προσπαθούν να φέρουν την κόλαση στη γη.Αν σκεφτούμε ότι στην πραγματικότητα δημιούργησαν τα στρατόπεδα συγκέντρωσης,μια χαρά το κατάφεραν αυτό.Δεν ξέρω αν καταλάβετε την υπόθεση του βιβλίου,αλλά προσπάθησα να βάλω και εγώ σε μια τάξη το μυαλό μου για να γράψω λίγες σειρές.
Δεν είχα ξαναδιαβάσει κάτι ανάλογο,οπότε στην αρχή δυσκολεύτηκα να πιάσω τον ιδιόρρυθμο (και σουρεαλιστικό) ρυθμό του βιβλίου.Όταν όμως συγχρονίστηκα μαζί του,μπορώ να πω ότι απόλαυσα αυτή τη βουτιά σε αυτό το Παρίσι που μπορεί να μην υπήρξε ποτέ,αλλά-λόγω της ζωντάνιας και της πειστικότητας της αφήγησης-θα μπορούσε άνετα να ήταν πραγματικό.
Ακόμα πιο uber απ’ το ίδιο κύριο κείμενο,ήταν το παράρτημα στο τέλος.Ο Μieville παρέθεσε τους πίνακες και γενικότερα τα σουρεαλιστικά έργα που ενέπνευσαν τα πλάσματα που υπάρχουν στο βιβλίο του.Είναι εξαιρετικά ενδιαφέροντα και δείχνουν την ευφυΐα του συγγραφέα.Το πιο σημαντικό,βέβαια,είναι ότι βοηθούν τον αναγνώστη να καταλάβει καλύτερα την υπόθεση του βιβλίου.
Είμαι χαρούμενη που η πρώτη μου επαφή με τον περίεργο κόσμο του Mieville ήταν αυτό το βιβλίο.Σίγουρα θα αναζητήσω και άλλα δικά του μελλοντικά.
Υ.Γ.Το φαντάζομαι να γίνεται βιντεοπαιχνίδι (και σειρά),έχει το potential.Άλλωστε,και ο ίδιος ο συγγραφέας είναι φαν του D&D,και γενικά των role playing games.#geek_alert
Profile Image for Fuchsia  Groan.
162 reviews197 followers
June 14, 2018
Y de nuevo esa maravillosa sensación de adentrarse en una nueva novela de Miéville e ir descubriendo un nuevo universo salido de su imaginación, donde absolutamente todas las reglas están por aprender, donde todo puede suceder, cualquier cosa: fronteras invisibles, un lado surrealista, ciclocentauros corriendo por el París nazi de 1950... y ese cosquilleo en el cerebro al empezarlo. Estimulante es poco.

Una vez superado el éxtasis inicial, el libro me parece bastante complicado, tanto de leer como de recomendar.

La trama no es excesivamente enrevesada. No es sencilla, pero eso viene de serie con el autor. Si la comparamos con sus otras obras, podemos decir que desde el inicio es fácil hacerse una idea aproximada de lo ocurrido: los nazis han vencido, y esta Nueva París está hecha de arte surrealista, literalmente. Para los que nos gusta el arte será una gozada el ir descubriendo algunas obras: Ernst, las mesas zorro de Brauner, André Breton, Leonora Carrington, Kay Sage, Robert Desnos... muchos de ellos también protagonistas de la novela (junto a otros también reales y fascinantes: Alesch, Fry Varian, Jack Parsons, Raymond Couraud). Una pena las muchísimas referencias a obras que me perdí (al final vienen un montón de notas donde cuenta de dónde viene la inspiración para muchas de las descripciones).

Me ha gustado mucho, la idea es grande, el escenario es una pasada y está ese Miéville fascinante, con una mezcla sorprendente: nazis, fantasía, arte, ocultismo... pero no es de mis preferidos. Quizás por su extensión, que no llega a ser una novela, le falta algo de profundidad, creo, sobre todo en la historia y en los personajes. En la ambientación desde luego que no.
Profile Image for Kaora.
559 reviews280 followers
August 13, 2016
Interesting concept, and well written, albeit weird, but who can expect anything less than China Mieville?

It just wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Ryan.
976 reviews
January 8, 2020
I think it's time for China Miéville to consider writing a memoir.

I like how Miéville's always trying to do something new and yet The Last Days of New Paris is probably the most "China Miéville" book that China Miéville could write. An S-Blast unleashes surreal art in a city to battle demons and Nazis. There are illustrations -- yay! -- and notes for readers unfamiliar with surrealism (readers like me). It's intelligent and weird, in proportions that I think we should call the Miéville Ratio. Unfortunately, The Last Days of New Paris is also a fine illustration of the Miéville Paradox, which occurs when one's attempt to do something entirely new and different yields an entirely familiar result.

I read in a goodreads interview that Miéville would not return to the Bas-Lag books unless he felt he could do the setting justice. Instead, he would just hop from one genre to another, presumably forever. He's done a lot but he hasn't escaped the Miéville Paradox. What if the exit is a memoir? He has the material. He seems like a really fit dude. Does he lift weights? He can take anyone in a fight. Has he trained? He is pretty politically active, so I'd be happy to read about that, too. He's a successful author, so a few pages on that subject would also be interesting. He seems to have pretty diverse interests, ranging from D&D to surrealism to photography to jungle music to illustration.

I really hope a memoir, maybe entitled The Last Days of New China, is on his radar.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,119 reviews1,111 followers
August 9, 2019
Political, grotesque, bizarre, monsters, cities, well, basically almost all the things you could expect from a Mieville novel. All, except engaging characters to root for and an actual exciting plot. This one, sadly, fell short on both fronts.

Fantastic imageries, nevertheless. He painted me a picture of places I'd like to take a peek at, albeit with morbid fascination.

Learned a lot about Surrealism and its artists. At the back, the novella has a long list of references of all surrealist works mentioned. I will definitely recommend to take a look at the notes (and google the images!) while reading.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any potential nightmare.
Profile Image for Mangrii.
846 reviews235 followers
December 25, 2017
3,5 / 5

Miéville plantea toda una bomba de imaginación concentrada en 200 páginas. Confusa, abrumadora, original. Por desgracia no he conseguido conectar con ella, ha sido demasiado para mí. El autor establece un juego metaliterario en el que se dedica a repasar todo un movimiento artístico como es el surrealismo. El alarde imaginativo del autor, tiene momentos interesantes y realmente brillantes. Crea imágenes que te vuelan el cerebro. Esa prosa densa, ese continuo juego de referencias, esa confusión en su narración. Es un reto. Uno para el que no estaba preparado. Aunque el glosario final ayuda (y mucho).

La trama no deja de ser una simple búsqueda, un viaje por todos los parajes de esta Nueva París. Miéville usa esta excusa para desplegar su imaginación. El arte, los textos o poemas surrealistas han cobrado vida e infestan las calles de Nueva París. La invasión nazi de 1940 sigue en pie de guerra con la Resistencia francesa. Una encarnizada batalla entre manifs (este arte que ha cobrado vida) y los demonios invocados por los nazis se da lugar ya durante muchos años. En 1950 Thibaut, un Main á plume, un luchador surrealista solitario, camina por esta nueva París cuando se topa con Sam, una fotógrafa estadounidense que lo convencerá para recoger documentación sobre todo y después huir de esta París sellada.

La narración, más pausada al principio de la novela, va cogiendo ritmo cuando la alternancia de líneas temporales, descubrimientos y giros argumentales comienza a aparecer. A través de sus personajes-títere vamos descubriendo como se ha llegado a esta situación y que esta pasando actualmente. Debo felicitar a Silvia Schettin por lo complejo que ha debido resultar la traducción de esta novela corta, solo la documentación ha debido ser una ardua tarea. Para abordar Los últimos días de Nueva París hay que ir con pies de plomo, con la mente abierta, con la imaginación al 200% de su capacidad. Creo que hay que dejarse llevar, y cuanto más sepas del movimiento artístico, creo que es más disfrutable. Estoy seguro de que con una relectura ganará mucho.

Reseña extensa en: http://boywithletters.blogspot.com.es...
Profile Image for Ctgt.
1,410 reviews83 followers
September 5, 2016
What a concept. Paris during World War II, Nazi interest in the occult, a mysterious S-blast which brings to life surrealistic paintings, drawings, sculptures,ideas as well as demons from Hell, a small resistance band of surrealistic ideologues battling the manifestations......just when you thought Miéville couldn't get any stranger. A fascinating conglomeration that hit many sweet spots for me. I have only a basic passing familiarity with the surrealistic movement but do remember enjoying a class from my college days so I really had fun looking up the references in the story.

A few passages to give you a taste

Iché brought a bathtub full of glimmering, shredded mirror into presence and sent it skittering on its claw feet into the slack-faced Gestapo commander. It bumped him and caught him with all its grinding scintillas. He screamed and sent up a spray of blood and reflections.

Men who sob at some depredation, mesmerized by the Statue of Liberty in the grounds. Its head is gone, just a knot of girders, its up-thrust right hand a gnarl. Protruding from the iron chest is a corpulent flesh eye. It blinks.

The cafe's green awning flaps frantically, pushed outward by a rushing wind from within. Around it are tables and chairs, all heaving up and suspended as if about to fly away, then spasming back to their positions on the ground. Up again, head height, and back. As they have jumped for years. The windows are blown out repeatedly, surrounded by broken glass that twitches and snaps back into the panes then out again, repeatedly, an oscillating instant of combustion. The cafe rumbles.

If you don't mind something a bit off the beaten path you might just like this story.

Profile Image for Aerin.
149 reviews529 followers
March 16, 2018
It is 1950 in Nazi-occupied Paris. Clearly, we are in a reality alternate to our own.

If Germans were the only invading force, that would be bad enough. But Paris is also overrun with nightmare visions plucked from the imaginations of surrealist writers, painters, and sculptors who believed that art could conquer fascism. And there are infernal invaders too, strange demonic entities vomited up from the bowels of hell - it seems that they are allied with the Nazis, but only to a point. For the citizens trapped within the city limits, it is safest to avoid all three types of monster.

Our protagonist, Thibaut, is a member of La Main à Plume, a splinter group of Surrealists who stayed behind in Paris, while André Breton and many of the movement's leading lights fled to safety in America. Thibaut's group patrols the city streets, in wary coexistence with the manifested art, holding the Nazis just barely at bay.

After several of his friends are killed in a raid gone wrong, Thibaut teams up with an American woman, Sam, whose cover story (she says she is shooting photos of the strange manifestations in Paris for a book) seems a little thin, but whose cunning and street smarts are a valuable asset. Together, Thibaut and Sam seek the source of the surrealist manifs and the secret of the rumored German superweapon known as Fall Rot - desperate to turn the tide of their supernatural war before this new horror swallows art and humanity alike.


I went into this book fully expecting to not understand it. I had heard that it was essentially a love letter to the Surrealist art movement, and - aside from a vague mental image of Dalí's floppy clocks - I knew almost nothing about Surrealism. Given China Miéville's towering intellect and exhaustive knowledge about his many obsessions, I figured this book's insights and allusions would breeze right over my head.

Thankfully, I was only half right. Although I would have had no idea how to envision the manifs or interpret their significance from the novella's text alone, Miéville was kind enough to include an appendix of endnotes, giving philistine readers like myself the tools to track down images and background info on Paris's living oddities. There's a pretty decent compilation of them here.

So this rapidly became a very bumpy, stop-start reading experience, where I'd read a sentence, flip to the endnotes for a citation, spend 20 minutes falling down a google hole, and come sputtering back up for air having completely forgotten what was happening in the narrative. I read most of these chapters three times through or more, carefully knitting art and context to the characters' experiences. With many other authors, this would have exhausted me, taken me completely out of the story. I've never been particularly interested in art history, anyway.

But here, as usual, Miéville is a wizard. He never tells the reader why Surrealism is fascinating, and he never infodumps a bunch of names, titles, or doctrines. He just writes a gripping story that threads in hints of the movement's history and influence, and lets the reader do the rest on their own. This is my favorite way to learn - from watching somebody else love something, and being compelled to discover why they love it so much.

But I don't recommend The Last Days of New Paris just for this didactic aspect. If the thought of learning about Surrealism vaguely bores you (as it did me!), that's no reason to avoid this book. It's also a fast-paced urban fantasy, a fascinating alternate history of World War II, a gritty survivalist tale reminiscent of the best of the postapocalyptic genre. Its characters are believable, but have enough Miévillian weirdness to keep you guessing about their outlook and motives. Its horrors are beautiful and strange and terrifying. You could - maybe you should - plow through this in one satisfying sitting, and only tuck into the endnotes later.

It's an engrossing reading experience, either way.


Despite this novella's ultimate idealism, I'm too much of a cynic to believe that art will actually save the world. But I can't help agreeing with Miéville's avatar in the Afterword:

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.
Profile Image for sologdin.
1,705 reviews609 followers
July 17, 2019
Nutshell: conscription of art objects makes manifest Benjamin’s thesis that humanity’s “self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.”

Basic principle of the narrative is that certain art-concepts have manifested (etymologically ‘hand-thrust’), i.e., have demonstrated, or become apparent, or have been disclosed. The art-concepts-made-manifest are designated as manifs, art with agency, art as subject of consciousness rather than object. It is an interesting thought experiment, and author flatters sense and decency by lining up art’s subjectivity as fighting against the far right.

More or less brilliant. Half the awesome is tracking down the references in the notes to various art objects (which I have tried to find on the internets and pop into the status updates, infra), as well as trying to locate reasonable sources for images undisclosed in the notes. Review of the notes brings the realization that classical surrealism is the default indicia of Mieville’s imaginary—all of his work might reasonably be referenced to these ideas, and it’s readily apparent that most of his writings find a source in classical surrealism. The classical surrealists are presented evenly, insofar as certain revolutionaries regard them as ludic nihilists: “‘Play is resistance,’ said [one of them]. […] This is how you rebel?” (88).

The space in which the narrative unfolds is liminal “insofar as anyone could be called to anything any more” (12), wherein the infernal contests with the fascistic and the surreal—the condition of possibility here is apparently the failure of althusserian interpellation, which is apparently a contagion: “The Nazis will never allow Paris to contaminate France” (16). Fascists accordingly “quarantine” Paris (38), Foucault’s political dream of the plague from the Discipline & Punish. It is also Agamben’s ‘camp’ from the Homo Sacer, the space wherein all are reduced to ‘bare life,’ depoliticized zoe. But this liminal space is nevertheless porous: a new commodity fetishism arises as “artifact hunters creep past the barricades to seek, extract, and sell stuff born or altered by the blast” (37-8). The quarantine is a state of exception, certainly, when the Wehrmacht “fired remorseless fusillades” (39) at their own trapped compatriots. “Women and men committed to no side, to nothing except trying to live” (94)--zoe, not bios, the lumpenized antisocial nihilist who cares for nothing but bare life. (We must recall that the agambenian state of exception is kenomatic, whereas “the connection of the golden dawn and animals and pleromic beyond to the woman committed to the liberation dreams” (114).

Derridean ‘hauntology’ from the Spectres of Marx: “Fumages, smoke figures wafting in and out of presence” (57).

Principal protagonist is part of the surrealist resistance “because of his way of seeing” (22)—that’s Berger, NB. The surrealist resistance “taught him to conduct what they called disponibilite, to be a receiver. To tap objective chance” (22). To that end, one character does “not believe in coincidence,” having been trained (“there are some words I think I can make do things they wouldn’t normally do”) by (47), with which agrees and designates as objective chance.

The former disciple is slick insofar as he might “speak commands to the universe” in order to “make himself slightly invisible” or “make time drag enough” (83)—very RSB that “he was used to carefully, intensely interpreting after all such actions, to if or how the world had responded.”
Some critique of the “theology of betrayal” (25) involved in the “Catholicism of collaboration” (id.), represented here as a satanic priest who summons demons on behalf of the NSDAP. Regarding the demonic, the S-bomb was “not their birth but their excuse” (28). They are “anti-exorcists” (80).

Text is self-referential, insofar as a character is writing a book entitled The Last Days of New Paris (55), and the Afterword involves the author’s reflection on receiving the facts of the story from a survivor.

Slick Pynchon reference insofar as “between the trajectories of rocket falls, rainbow-shapes and gravity, between his imaginings of screamings across the sky that we would send the Nazis, [past-protagonist] with exhausting care and thoroughness, developed an arithmetic of invocation, an algebra of ritual” (90)—okay, I got a bit weepy at that. Perhaps unfair to say that this is a gloss on Gravity’s Rainbow, but the text is precise on the relation thereto.

Reading will likely benefit from a knowledge of local Parisian geography, as the text often locates itself specifically by street and arrondissement, similar to how American Psycho very precisely locates itself in New York.

Much is made of surrealist process, such as the generation of various ‘exquisite corpses’ (cf. note at 194 ff.), the ‘Marseille game’ (note at 198 ff.), and the ‘irrational embellishments’ (note at 190 ff.). An important refrain is how “the mission is vacant” (63, 79). (mission arises out of latinate mittere, a sending, a setting at liberty; vacant from latinate vacare, to be empty).

References to Rabbi Judah Loew and the Golem as “the first applied mathematician” (89) (author likes this narrative and invokes it in Iron Council, recall). Also found in that text is the insistence that the revolutionary owes something to the revolution, which here shows up as: “What treachery against the collectivism, the war socialism of the Main a plume, keeping the [something spoilery] for himself” (97)—radical democracy or nothing.

A similar intertextual moment with his recent collection of short fictions: “And in all the years since, this famous ground has been impenetrable. No one has been able to push through the windless windlike force it extrudes, its own memory of its explosion” (101).

Anyway, it’s not just collaborator Catholicism, but also Drancy, Mengele, and—no joke—Hitler’s art.

Recommended for those who watch for monsters, readers who don’t run things, and those who wanted to find the Philosopher’s Stone.
Profile Image for Thomas Wagner.
134 reviews894 followers
September 1, 2016
I’m pretty sure that when André Breton and his Surrealist colleagues collaborated on The Exquisite Corpse in 1938 — that bizarre photo-collage of a giant with a larva on his head, a train spewing smoke in his beard, and a vise for a torso — they never would have predicted their creature would star in a boss battle in a 21st century work of weird fiction by the genre’s most prominent Marxist. The Surrealists saw themselves as revolutionaries, but the revolutionary thing China Miéville does is conscript the Surrealist aesthetic as well as its politics into the service of a story that is pure pulp-fiction wartime suspense thriller, a work of unabashed bourgeois entertainment, set in a world gone surreally mad. It’s possible the actual Surrealists would hate it for that. Except maybe Dali, who seems like he was pretty chill about that kind of thing.

The Last Days of New Paris is just the tonic for readers aching for some of the old China Miéville New Weird magic, who may have felt This Census-Taker wasn’t nearly weird enough. In this story, barely more than a novella itself, Miéville literalizes the concept of art as revolutionary act by having Nazi-occupied Paris embroiled in endless street fighting between the hallucinatory manifestations of Surrealist automatic drawing and the hellish monstrosities called to life by Nazi occultism. ( continued... )
Profile Image for Sarah.
604 reviews145 followers
July 21, 2019
Meh- disjointed narrative made it hard to follow and the short length made it hard to connect with the characters.
Profile Image for Theo Logos.
611 reviews93 followers
April 28, 2022
China Mieville writes stories that cast his readers directly into the deep end of his convoluted imagination. They either sink or find their depth on their own. It is the ultimate example of the writing maxim of "show, don't tell," and while sometimes intimidating, is also flattering. He trusts the intellect and imagination of his readers to work their own way out and swim through the weirdly imaginative sea of his work.

The strange bones of this story are set in an alternative history of Nazi occupied Paris. The Marxist resistance is fighting with weaponize art - a bizarre S-bomb that has called into existence endless living manifestations of Nazi killing Surrealist artwork. Nazi occultist fight back with abominations summoned from hell. The Paris landscape utterly transformed by this odd warfare.

Yet Mieville conjures something beyond even this uncanny tale, something deeper and more disturbing. He pushes past the mere suspension of disbelief at these fantastical and weird components, moving the reader to suspect a greater truth looming just out of reach behind the story, a lingering sense of hidden meaning that continues to haunt long after the story is laid aside. That is China Mieville's great magic, and this book is its perfect invocation.

After finishing this short book, I couldn’t stop talking about it. I found myself describing it and recommending it to a wide circle of friends. It had captivated my imagination in ways that made it difficult to banish and move on. Any book that powerful more than earns a stellar 5 star rating.
Profile Image for Gabi.
689 reviews117 followers
August 15, 2021
Leaning towards 4.5 stars.

China Miéville is always a safe go-to when I need some change from the usual SFF. In this short novel he imagines a Paris during the Nazi occupation where both sides are held captive in an alternate history where texts and visual art of surrealists manifested themselves as beings. If you are familiar with surrealism it is even more fun, but the story can be enjoyed by layfolk as well thanks to an extensive note part at the end of the book.

This book has to be taken a bit like one of the works of the movement: don't ask for explanation or a straight plot, just act upon the emotional experience.

A writing experiment that worked quite well for me.
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