Squaring the Circle: A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony

Gheorghe Sa˘sa˘rman, trans. from Romanian to Spanish by Mariano Martin Rodriguez, selected and trans. from the Spanish by Ursula K. Le Guin. Aqueduct (www.aqueductpress.com), $16 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-61976-025-7
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 S s rman’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. Perhaps the only area where S s rman falls short is in his rare, dismissive portrayals of women (Le Guin’s introduction implies some of the untranslated stories are worse in this respect), all the more startling when contrasted with the extraordinary, timeless nature of his prose. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/11/2013
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