The City & The City & The (un)Dead Author

China Mieville, on being asked whether TC&TC is an “interstitial” work:

I consider it a crime novel, above all. The question of whether or not it’s fantasy doesn’t have a stable answer; it’s to do with how it’s read, what people get out of it, and so on. Certainly I was very aware of genre, and of the fantastic, and there’s a certain kind of (I hope good-natured) teasing of readers about the whether-or-not-ness of a fantastic “explanation” for the setting. And other issues, I think, about the drive to world-creation, and the hankering for a certain kind of hermetic totality that you see in fantasy, and so on. Not I hope that that stuff is heavy-handed, but it’s there in my mind. I don’t mind whether other people think the book’s “splipstream,” or “interstitial,” or whatever. I think of it as within the fantastic tradition, but for me that’s always been a very broad church. Whether it’s “fantasy” in the narrower sense, I don’t much mind. Certainly I’m not abjuring the term—it would be ungrateful and ridiculous for me to distance myself from a set of reading and writing traditions, and a set of aesthetics and thematics that have furnished my mind since forever.

And on whether he has sympathies with allegorical readings:

Personally I make a big distinction between allegorical and metaphoric readings (though I’m not too bothered about terminology, once we’ve established what we’re talking about). To me, the point of allegorical readings is the search for what Fredric Jameson calls a “master code” to “solve” the story, to work out what it’s “about,” or, worse, what it’s “really about.” And that approach I have very little sympathy with. In this I’m a follower of Tolkien, who stressed his “cordial dislike” of allegory. I dislike it because I think it renders fiction pretty pointless, if a story really is written to “mean” something else—and I’m not suggesting there’s no place for polemical or satirical or whatever fiction, just that if it’s totally reducible in a very straight way, then why not just say that thing? Fiction is always more interesting to the extent that there’s an evasive surplus and/or a specificity. So it’s not saying there are no meanings, but that there are more than “just” those meanings. The problem with allegorical decoding as a method isn’t that it reads too much into a story, but that it reads too little into it. Allegories are always more interesting when they overspill their own levees. Metaphor, for me, is much more determinedly like that. Metaphor is always fractally fecund, and there’s always more and less to it. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that in no way do I say some of those readings aren’t valid (though I must say I have very little sympathy for the “East” versus “West” one, which is explicitly denied in the text more than once), but that I hope people don’t think the book is “solved” by that. I don’t think any book can be so solved.

Fascinating full interview by Paul Witcover, compiled for the TC&TC paperback edition backpages, available at The Inferior 4 + 1.

One thought on “The City & The City & The (un)Dead Author”

  1. I found the mention of Hav very interesting; it set me thinking about why Hav works for me so much better than The City & The City, and I think in part it’s precisely because the cities have *too much* of an identity, it ultimately defeats their purpose. But I can’t believe I didn’t think about the comparison more before now.

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