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Railsea by China Miéville
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Railsea (2012)

by China Miéville

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (80)  French (1)  All languages (81)
Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
(As usual with Mieville) I bought this for my Dad (for his birthday) and then he lent it to me when he'd finished it (when he visited for my graduation). I really enjoyed this one. Not quite as much as The Scar or The City & The City, but it's definitely up there amongst the best of his works. It's... Moby Dick, but with trains and moles instead of boats and whales? Sort of? But also a lot of other awesome things, including the usual excellent world-building details that are what keep bringing me back to Mieville's books.

(Note: I had not read Moby Dick before this and I don't feel like that impacted my enjoyment of Railsea in any way. I've read it now, though!)
( )
  tronella | Jun 22, 2019 |
Miéville, China (2012). Railsea. London: Pan MacMillan. 2012. ISBN 9780230765368. Pagine 384. 8,77 €

Questo è il libro che, come dicevo, ha vinto la mia ritrosia a cercare e riprodurre un passo da Il maiale e il grattacielo di Marco d’Eramo. Non tanto per l’aspetto “metadati”, quanto per quello strettamente legato della “standardizzazione”. L’ossessione, soprattutto nordamericana, della standardizzazione è quella che – ben prima della mania del tagging, social o meno – ha portato alla minuziosa classificazione dei generi musicali: andate a vedere, anche soltanto sul vostro iTunes, quante opzioni presenta la tendina “genere”. Oppure andate su un sito specializzato come allmusic.com: 21 generi articolati ognuno in 20-30 sottogeneri, quasi 300 moods, 180 themes: se queste dimensioni si possono tutte incrociare tra loro, parliamo di 25-30 milioni di possibilità… Anche limitandosi alla List of popular music genres proposta dall’omonima pagina di wikipedia c’è da farsi prendere dalle vertigini.

Lo stesso accade con i generi letterari. Amazon permette di esplorare 32 generi principali, ma ognuna delle voci è articolata in profondità, quasi un regresso infinito.

Tutto questo per dire che Railsea non è un romanzo normale. Non soltanto appartiene a un genere (quello che noi chiamiamo fantascienza, ma che Amazon cataloga sotto Books → Literature & Fiction → Genre Fiction, ma anche sotto Books → Science Fiction & Fantasy → Fantasy), ma appartiene anche alla Young-adult fiction (YA), cioè opere di fiction scritte, pubblicate o commercializzate per un pubblico di età compresa tra i 12 e i 18 anni (teenager), oppure, secondo una definizione più estensiva, tra i 10 e i 24 anni. La definizione della categoria è abbastanza lasca: il tema e lo stile passano spesso ma non sempre in secondo piano, rispetto agli elementi della trama, dell’ambientazione e dei personaggi, in modo da catturare più immediatamente e agevolmente l’attenzione dei giovani lettori; la stragrande maggioranza delle storie YA vede un adolescente come protagonista; si tratta in molti casi di un Bildungsroman (in inglese si dice coming-of-age novel). Sono abbastanza tranquillizzato dalla constatazione – se non ho guardato male (il sito della YALSA, cioè della sezione dell’American Library Association che si occupa di letteratura per i giovani adulti, non era raggiungibile) – che non esiste un codice per la regolamentazione o per l’autoregolamentazione (tipo il famigerato codice Hays) dei libri per adolescenti.
Codice Hays

wikipedia.org

Un sospiro di sollievo, quindi? No, perché dopo che abbiamo letto quel passo da Il maiale e il grattacielo conosciamo l’immane potere della standardizzazione. Il solo fatto che nelle biblioteche e nelle librerie statunitensi (e, in misura minore, in tutto il mondo anglosassone) esista una sezione YA (la data di nascita si fa convenzionalmente risalire al 1967, anno di pubblicazione di The Outsiders di Susan Eloise Hinton) è sufficiente, come abbiamo visto, a creare il genere YA come un genere separato.

Fatemi fare una breve digressione (chiedervi il permesso è una figura retorica, ho il potere assoluto di farlo, e voi di smettere di leggermi per ripicca). Nel giugno del 2008 ero a Dublino per qualche giorno di vacanza. Avevo letto Firmin, spacciato per bestseller negli Stati Uniti per creare un bestseller italiano (e l’operazione era riuscita, potenza del marketing, benché negli Stati Uniti non fosse stato un successo editoriale). Benché uscito nel 2005, ai primi 10 posti in classifica sia nel sito statunitense sia in quello britannico c’era invece Twilight. Allora sono entrato in una storica e grande libreria di Dublino, Hodges Figgis, ma sono rimasto stupito non trovandolo esposto. Vincendo la mia naturale ritrosia, ho chiesto a una commessa, che – stupita della mia richiesta (sono un signore di mezza età di aspetto giovanile nei miei giorni migliori) – mi ha guidato nella sezione YA.

Torniamo a noi. Mettiamoci nei panni di un autore che si accinge a scrivere un romanzo che per le sue caratteristiche (ad esempio per il fatto di avere un adolescente come protagonista e di raccontare il suo passaggio all’età adulta) si potrebbe collocare “indifferentemente” nella categoria YA o nella letteratura tout court. Le leggi di mercato che Marco d’Eramo illustra così bene lo condizioneranno, orientandolo a collocarsi nella fascia di qualità “alta” della categoria più “bassa” (in questo caso la letteratura YA, in quanto letteratura “di genere”), piuttosto che nella fascia di qualità “bassa” della categoria più “alta”. E anche, impercettibilmente, a evitare quelle scelte narrative e stilistiche (ad esempio, gli eccessi di sesso, di violenza, di orrore o di linguaggio) che potrebbero nuocere alla collocazione nella categoria YA.

Ahimè, questo è quello che – non so quanto consapevolmente, ma suppongo di sì, dal momento che China Miéville è tutt’altro che uno sprovveduto – succede a Railsea. Che resta al di sotto dei livelli elevatissimi cui Miéville ci aveva abituato, anche se naturalmente stiamo parlando di uno scrittore vero, anni-luce avanti all’irritante Stephanie Meyer.

Raccontare una storia che ha talmente tanti antenati e ispirazioni (viene subito in mente Melville, anche per assonanza tra i due autori, ma le rassomiglianze di famiglia sono troppe per poter essere citate) e con così tante “voci” (Miéville passa in continuazione dalla narrazione alla meta-narrazione, lasciandoci vedere divertito l’autore all’opera con le sue impalcature narrative) richiede davvero una grande maestria.

* * *

Alcune sugose citazioni. Il riferimento è come di consueto alle posizioni sul Kindle:

“Well grubbed, old mole!” […] A traditional response to that traditional praise for such quarry cunning. [284 e ancora 5032: Miéville è un comunista che conosce bene il Marx del 18 Brumaio di Luigi Bonaparte]

The devout thanked the Stonefaces or Mary Ann or the Squabbling Gods or Lizard or That Apt Ohm or whatever they believed in. Freethinkers had their own awe. [315]

[…] train travels & troubles. [548]

“What,” said Yashkan, “are you doing?”
I have no idea, he thought. [576]

“You do know,” the doctor had said, “that you don’t have to obey orders?”
“I thought that was the whole point of orders!”
“Oh yes, but no,” Fremlo’s voice had dropped. “I mean you are obligated to, formally, yes, but it’s not uncommon to not. […] [830]

PEOPLE HAVE WANTED TO narrate since first we banged rocks together & wondered about fire. There’ll be tellings as long as there are any of us here, until the stars disappear one by one like turned-out lights.
Some such stories are themselves about the telling of others. An odd pastime. Seemingly redundant, or easy to get lost in, like a picture that contains a smaller picture of itself, which in turn contains—& so on. Such phenomena have a pleasing foreign name: they are mise-en-abymes.
We have just had a story of a story. Tell it yourself, again, & a story of a story in a story will be born, & you will be en route to that abyme. Which is an abyss. [1466]

Pitted & oxidised mechanisms from the Heavy Metal Age; shards from the Plastozoic; printouts on thin rubber & ancient ordinator screens from the Computational Era. [1507: le diverse ere del pianeta di Railsea, che però è probabilmente questa nostra terra in un indeterminato futuro]

Fights are much taxonomised. They have been subject over centuries to a complex, exhaustive categoric imperative. Humans like nothing more than to pigeonhole the events & phenomena that punctuate their lives.
Some bemoan this fact: “Why does everything have to be put into boxes?” they say. & fair enough, up to a point. But this vigorous drive to divide, subdivide & label has been rather maligned. Such conceptual shuffling is inevitable, & a reasonable defence against what would otherwise face us as thoroughgoing chaos. The germane issue is not whether, but how, to divide. [1991: anche Miéville si pone il problema dei metadati!]

There were almost as many kinds of families as there were rock islands in the railsea – that, of course, Sham knew. There were many disinclined to take the shape that their homes would rather they did. & in those nations where the norms were not policed by law, if they were willing to put up with disapproval – as, it was clear, the Shroakes were – they could take their own shapes. Hence the Shroakes’ strange household. [2269]

“It was after everything went bad, & they were trying to make money again. With public works. People paid for passage, & rulers paid for every mile of build. So it went crazy. They were competing, all putting down new routes all over the place. Ruthless, because the more they built the more they made.
“They burnt off years of noxious stuff—that’s where the upsky comes from—& ended up chugging stuff into the ground, too, changing things. They could jury-rig the whole world. It was a company war. They laid traps for each other’s trains, so there’s trap-switches, trap-lines, out there.
“They made the lines,” Caldera said. “They destroyed each other. But they couldn’t stave off ruin. & all they left were the rails. We live in the aftermath of business bickering.” [2491]

Our minds we salvage from history’s rubbish, & they are machines to make chaos into story. [2878]

It was common to insist that the worst thing that could happen to a person was to get the wisdom for which they strove. [3956]

“You wouldn’t think,” said Dero, his voice hollow, “the rails could finish, would you?”
“Maybe they don’t,” Sham said. “Maybe this is where the railsea begins.” [5267]

* * *

Qualche altra recensione del romanzo la trovate su Scoop.it – Recensioni. ( )
  Boris.Limpopo | Apr 29, 2019 |
What word better could there be to symbolize the railsea that connects & separates all lands, than “&” itself? Where else does the railsea take us, but to one place & that one & that one & that one, & so on? & what better embodies, in the sweep of the pen, the recurved motion of trains, than “&”?

CM certainly appreciates the hothouse of lexicon. One senses the work and wonder at play. Railsea doesn't wear any undue YA infamy, well, not until the concluding third. I found the exhumation of language much more compelling than this lost world of Moby Melville. It isn't much of a spoiler, but I did wish to add that Mocker Jack, the antagonist super mole of the novel isn't just a parody of the White Whale, but I found it to be a rumination on Derrida, the ever deferred inchoate answer to philosophy. I was surpised at how indifferent I remained. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I don't believe I'm the target audience for this book. It is YA Sci Fi. For the first part of the book, I was confused (don't even ask me to explain the world building...I can't). The second part of the book I was bored (except for when there were pirates). I can see readers who are comfortable reading Sci Fi loving this book. I can even see lovers of Moby-Dick enjoying it. For me, this just wasn't that great. I don't think I would've finished this book if I had to tried to read it in print. I'm giving it 1 star for excellent narration. I'm giving it a bonus star for pirates. This is a very generous 2 star read. ( )
  tntbeckyford | Feb 16, 2019 |
Slow going through the middle. But so visionary and imaginative that I kept going, and it was a rewarding last third of page turning reading ( )
  RekhainBC | Feb 15, 2019 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bauche-Eppers, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mège, NathalieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Our minds we salvage from history's rubbish, & they are machines to make chaos into story.
Angels, unremittingly & absolutely sane, cannot but seem to poor humanity relentlessly & madly murderous.
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"On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt: the giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one's death & the other's glory. But no matter how spectacular it is, Sham can't shake the sense that there is more to life than traveling the endless rails of the railsea--even if his captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-colored mole she's been chasing since it took her arm all those years ago. When they come across a wrecked train, at first it's a welcome distraction. But what Sham finds in the derelict--a kind of treasure map indicating a mythical place untouched by iron rails--leads to considerably more than he'd bargained for. Soon he's hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters, & salvage-scrabblers. & it might not be just Sham's life that's about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea. Here is a novel for readers of all ages, a gripping & brilliantly imagined take on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick that confirms China Mieville's status as "the most original & talented voice to appear in several years" (Science Fiction Chronicle)"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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