The Last Days of New Paris (China Miéville)

The Last Days of New Paris is a novella by China Miéville.
Finished on: 29.9.2019

1950 in Paris. The resistance against the Nazis is on-going, as neither the Nazis nor the Parisians can really leave the city as Paris is home to the manifs, manifestations of surrealist art that roam the streets. Thibaut would like to get out, though, and so he joins forces with Sam, an American photographer who hopes to capture the city with its manifs. But Sam is in a precarious position, too.

The Last Days of New Paris is yet another, completely different thing. I’m in awe of what Miéville always comes up with and how his books barely resemble each other. In any case, it’s an engaging novella that doubles as a love-letter to surrealism.

The book cover showing a sepia shot of Paris with the Eiffel tower in the background, its bottom covered in fog.

The Last Days of New Paris blends fact and fiction a little – the backstory of Jack Parsons stumbling on the surrealists in 1941 introduces many surrealist artists who actually lived and worked at the time. I’m no surrealism expert myself, but there is an afterword that basically points out the real-history-bits there (kinda). I wouldn’t have needed that bit, I was rather comfortable with the blend of reality and fantasy, but it was interesting.

The book also includes endnotes, pointing out the art it draws from, that really make me want to research the surrealist artists some more. Especially since there were quite a few women, apparently. In any case, the endnotes do give you a good starting point in case you want to jump into things from there. (I dream of a luxury edition where we get images of the original artwork referenced alongside the text. But there is this painstakingly collected substitute in the meantime.)

In any case, it’s very exciting world-building, albeit a less exciting story (a bit of a mess) and characters (a little lost in this chaotic world). But then again, the chaos suits the surrealism of everything here – and ultimately it’s just fascinating to dive into this world.

Summarizing: definitely worth a read, at least if you’re looking for something strange.

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