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Squaring the Circle

The idea of writing a book of brief descriptions of imaginary cities, condensing into it the grandure and tragedy of five milliennia of urban history, came to me by chance, while I was in charge of the Architecture and Urbanism section of the review Scânteia. A writer had protested in an open letter against the demolition of an historic building, and the editors asked me to respond, which I did by writing the story Musaeum.” It was the autumn of 1969, a year after the Russian tanks invaded Prague, an invasion openly condemned by Ceauşescu, a time when many people, not only in Bucharest, believe (what a mistake!) that Romania was evolving towards democaracy.” —From the author’s postscript to the French edition, 1992.

Squaring the Circle is highly readable. And it’s fun. It gives us all the pleasure of a travel guide, and the addiitional 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 the ziggurat, except the ramps are greased. I thought of Stalinist Romania when I read it, but it could also apply to the US.”
—Eleanor Arnason, author of A Woman of the Iron People and Tomb of the Fathers


“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 Săsărman’s masterfully crafted prose poems feel more immediate, serving as spellbinding descriptions of architectural impossibilities as well as slyly subversive social commentary.”
Publishers Weekly March 11, 2013.

“Any one of these stories will craft in the reader’s mind an entire world, a society, a country and then slowly but surely transform that imaginary way station into a refracted aspect of what is happening here and now, and ever and forever. This is the sort of book that is well worth seeking out, as are the cities of the imagination it creates for us.”
—Rick Kleffel, The Agaony Column, Jan 30, 2013 (read the whole review)

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