Squaring the Circle: A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony

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9781619760257: Squaring the Circle: A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony
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Squaring the Circle presents 24 fantastic tales by Gheorghe Sasarman, originally published in Romanian, to readers in English, thanks to the efforts of Ursula K. Le Guin, a great admirer of Sasarman's tales. Each tale marvelously depicts the world of a city through the eloquence of its architecture.

Eleanor Arnason writes of these tales: ''Squaring the Circle reminds me of some of my favorite books: Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, Angelica Gordodischer's Kalpa Imperial, and Ursula K LeGuin's Changing Planes. I don't know if there's a name for this kind of fiction Faux history? Fantastic geography? Imaginary anthropology? Whatever it is, I love it. Humans have always liked to hear about fabulous journeys and strange distant places. Othello told Desdemona, ''of the Cannibals that each other eat, The Anthropophagi and men whose heads Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear Would Desdemona seriously incline.'' Maybe books like this meet our need for amazing stories, now that the world is mostly mapped.

''Squaring the Circle is highly readable. (I got it through in one sitting.) And it's fun. There is a playfulness in this kind of fiction, a subversive undercutting of the 19th-century idea of the novel. It gives us all the pleasure of a travel guide, and the additional pleasure of being-- in spite of the meticulous description -- unreal. As it turns out, a cityscape can be as interesting as a bildungsroman and as meaningful. The first section of Squaring the Circle, ''Vavylon,'' is a fine description of a class society that claims to be egalitarian. Anyone can climb to the top of ziggurat, except the ramps are greased. I thought of Stalinist Romania when I read it, but it could also apply to the US.''

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About the Author:

Gheorghe Sasarman's novels, short fiction, and plays have been published in Romania, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, and Japan. In 2012 he was awarded the Ion Hobana Opera Omnia Prize by the Bucharest branch of the Writers' Union and the Romanian Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Ursula K. Le Guin is the renowned author of many novels, short stories, poems, and essays. She has been honored with numerous awards, including the National Book Award, five Hugo and five Nebula Awards, 18 Locus Awards, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Howard Vursell Award of the American Academy, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and the Margaret Edwards Award. Her most recent novel is Lavinia, hailed by critics as delightful, sublimely composed, masterful.

Review:

These trippy, cutting 24 stories, chosen by SF/F grande dame Le Guin from a collection of 36 originally published in Romanian in 1975, inevitably draw comparisons to Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. Both explore society and human psyche through architectural descriptions of imaginary cities, but Sasarman's masterfully crafted prose poems feel more immediate, serving as spellbinding descriptions of architectural impossibilities as well as slyly subversive social commentary. The equality of all citizens is an enshrining principle of the ziggurat Vavylon, with steep ramps oiled every day to prevent ascent, though descent is very rapid. The elite of Musaeum create immortal artworks that remain unknown, for they are too busy with their own works to look at one another's. The intrepid explorers of Selenia vainly hunt for a building site uncontaminated by the psychic refuse of Earth's poets, lovers, and dreamers, which litters most of the lunar surface. --Publishers Weekly March 11, 2013

And there is then, of course, the tiny but beautiful mind-bending chaser that is 'Squaring the Circle: A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony' by Gheorgie Sasarman, and translated by no less than Ursula K. Le Guin. If you are reminded of Italo Calvino, then you are on the right track, but Sasarman has his own smart visions to offer readers. The brief excursions into the fantastic cities described here will trip anyone's sense of wonder even as they cause readers to glance at the world we find at our doorsteps with new eyes. These cities are really enjoyable to read and re-read about as Sasarman spins off allegory and innuendo to imagination with remarkably clean language as translated by Le Guin.

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Gheorghe Sasarman; Ursula K. le Guin; translator
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