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Making sharp distinctions between modernity and modernism, the volume offers extensive readings of Richard Marsh, Amy Levy, Arnold Bennett and T.

Through detailed and attentive close readings which draw on both historiography and other interdisciplinary theoretical resources, Wolfreys reassesses the city as a series of singular sites irreducible to stable identities, whilst also offering a cogent re-evaluation of motifs of the nocturnal and the suburban in the literary imagination of London, concluding with an extended reading of The Waste Land and its manuscript drafts.

Read more Read less. Special offers and product promotions Amazon Business : For business-exclusive pricing, quantity discounts and downloadable VAT invoices. Create a free account. See all free Kindle reading apps. Tell the Publisher! Review 'Julian Wolfreys' series of Writing London books goes from strength to strength. Hillis Miller, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine, USA Synopsis "Writing London: Inventions of the City" stages a series of interventions and inventions of urban space between the years and in key literary texts of the period.

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William Blake

Write a customer review. Pages with related products. See and discover other items: inventions scottish. Unlimited One-Day Delivery and more. There's a problem loading this menu at the moment. Learn more about Amazon Prime. And beneath that dim glow, a formation of children advanced across the snowy ground, white scarves wrapped around their heads, rifles fitted with gleaming bayonets, singing some unrecognizable song as they moved forward in unison.

In the book, a supernova bathes Earth in deadly radiation, killing everyone over the age of thirteen. In the absence of adults, children must figure out how to apportion resources, forge diplomatic relationships, and maintain order. It soon becomes evident that a world run by children is very different from one run by adults. Liu told me that he intended the novel to express the reactions of Chinese people at a time of utter confusion in the face of change, when old beliefs collapsed before new ones could be enshrined. Liu was born in in Beijing, where his father was a manager at the Coal Mine Design Institute and his mother was an elementary-school teacher.

Chinese forces breached dikes on the Yellow River to halt the Japanese advance, but the resulting flood destroyed thousands of villages and killed hundreds of thousands of people. It also ruined vast areas of farmland; the next harvest was a fraction of the expected yield.

In , after the government failed to respond to the shortage, some two million people starved to death. When the civil war resumed, after the Second World War, both sides conscripted men. He rose to the rank of company commander in the Eighth Route Army, and, after the Communist victory, he began his career in Beijing. Liu was three years old when the Cultural Revolution broke out. His father lost his job—having a brother who had fought against the revolution made him politically suspect—and was sent to work in the coal mines of Yangquan, in Shanxi Province, where Liu still lives. The city was a flash point for the factional violence that accompanied the Cultural Revolution, and Liu remembers hearing gunfire at night and seeing trucks filled with men clutching guns and wearing red armbands.

Things became dangerous enough that, when Liu was four, he was sent to live with his grandparents in Henan, and stayed there for several years. As a child, Liu was mischievous and cheeky. Even today, he retains a fondness for ingenious pranks, and once created a poetry-writing algorithm, whose voluminous output he submitted to a literary magazine. He also had a practical bent: after developing a fascination with weapons, in grade school, he taught himself to make gunpowder.

When Liu was six, China launched its first satellite and he became obsessed with space. Initially, his ambition was to explore it rather than to write about it, but he came to realize that, for someone of his background, the advanced degrees necessary to work in the nascent space program were out of reach. After graduation, he was assigned to work at the Niangziguan Power Plant, where he had plenty of time to hone his writing and to absorb all the sci-fi he could get his hands on, sometimes poring over a dictionary to get through untranslated works by Vonnegut, Bradbury, Pynchon, and Orwell.

In the nineties, tens of millions of workers found themselves laid off, with no social-security system. Pragmatic choices like this one, or like the decision his grandparents made when their sons were conscripted, recur in his fiction—situations that present equally unconscionable choices on either side of a moral fulcrum. An episode in the trilogy depicts Earth on the verge of destruction.

A scientist named Cheng Xin encounters a gaggle of schoolchildren as she and an assistant prepare to flee the planet. Her assistant leaps into action, however, and poses three math problems.

The three children who are quickest to answer correctly are ushered on board. I gave them a chance. Competition is necessary for survival. No one is more aware than Liu of the connection between the ambitions of sci-fi and the tendency of Chinese history to eclipse the individual. In a single day, forty inches of rain fell and more than fifty dams collapsed. In the course of a few days, nearly a quarter of a million people died.

The great flourishing of science fiction in the West at the end of the nineteenth century occurred alongside unprecedented technological progress and the proliferation of the popular press—transformations that were fundamental to the development of the genre. As the British Empire expanded and the United States began to assert its power around the world, British and American writers invented tales of space travel as seen through a lens of imperial appropriation, in which technological superiority brought about territorial conquest.

Extraterrestrials were often a proxy for human beings of different creeds or races. Early Chinese sci-fi imagined a China that caught up with the West and then outstripped it. But during the Cultural Revolution the genre was banned, along with other nonrevolutionary literature, and even science itself was subjected to ideological-purity tests. Speculative fiction is the art of imagining alternative worlds, and the same political establishment that permits it to be used as propaganda for the existing regime is also likely to recognize its capacity to interrogate the legitimacy of the status quo.

When questioned about stories that seemed to allude to Stalinist conformism and paranoia, Lem said the same thing that Liu says about geopolitical interpretations of his trilogy—that he was not writing a veiled assessment of the present but merely making up stories. One day, Liu and I went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant not far from his hotel.

It was half past two and the restaurant was empty, a void of crisp white tablecloths, punctuated by tacky, oversized ceramic vases.

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Large TV screens burbled to themselves in every corner. As soon as we sat down, Liu called a waiter over and asked for two beers.


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He had bought the bottle the day before at a liquor store. You know the type. Types are central to the way Liu thinks of people; he has a knack for quickly sketching the various classes that make up Chinese society.


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  • Liu readily admits to the charge. Reading an article about the problem, Liu thought, What if the three bodies were three suns? How would intelligent life on a planet in such a solar system develop? From there, a structure gradually took shape that almost resembles a planetary system, with characters orbiting the central conceit like moons.

    For better or worse, the characters exist to support the framework of the story rather than to live as individuals on the page. The time line of the trilogy spans 18,, years, encompassing ancient Egypt, the Qin dynasty, the Byzantine Empire, the Cultural Revolution, the present, and a time eighteen million years in the future. One scene is told from the perspective of an ant. The first book is set on Earth, though some of its scenes take place in virtual reality; by the end of the third book, the scope of the action is interstellar and annihilation unfolds across several dimensions.

    Writing London - Volume 3: Inventions of the City | J. Wolfreys | Palgrave Macmillan

    At every turn, the characters are forced to make brutal calculations in which moral absolutism is pitted against the greater good. In their pursuit of survival, men and women employ Machiavellian game theory and adopt a bleak consequentialism. The drinks had warmed him, and the heat of Sichuanese peppercorns seemed to stir him from his usual reticence.

    I decided to inch the conversation toward politics, a topic he prefers to avoid.

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    His views turned out to be staunch and unequivocal. There were reports of elderly people committing suicide in order to be buried before the ban went into effect. If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty. Not democracy.