”Squaring the Circle : A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony” by Gheorghe Săsărman (translated by Ursula K. Le Guin)


    These trippy, cutting 24 stories, chosen by SF/F Grande Dame Ursula K. Le Guin from a collection of 36 originally published in Romanian, 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.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. Extraordinary, timeless nature has his prose…” – Publishers Weekly

    Squaring the Circle : A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony” presents 24 fantastic tales by Gheorghe Săsărman, originally published in Romanian, to readers in English, thanks to the efforts of Ursula K. Le Guin, a great admirer of Săsărman’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. 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.

    “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 Agony Column

    Gheorghe Sasarman

    Gheorghe Săsărman‘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.

    UK Le Guin_Squaring

    Ursula K. Le Guin at “Squaring the Circle” ‘s launching in Seattle, USA

    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.


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