City & the City discussion questions

In your groups today, discuss as many of these questions or sets of questions (taken from your responses) as possible. Don’t rush; take your time and answer the ones you choose to focus on fully. You can start with whichever question you want and move through the list in any order. Please just number your responses according to the numbers on the list so I can tell which questions you’re answering when I look at your group notes later.

Choose one or two questions to talk about with me toward the end of class when I’ll circulate through the room and talk to each group separately for a minute.

  1. Why are there such strong political tensions between Ul Qoma and Beszel over a place that may or may not exist? Is this tension over something we can’t even see realistic or not? What parallels between their political situation and real-life political situations can you find, and how do those parallels affect your reading of the novel?
  2. Is Beszel based on an eastern European country or completely made up from a mix of several countries? How does thinking about it in one or the other way affect your reading of the novel?
  3. Would you be able to live in a society like this? Could one argue that we live in a similar one today? If not, why not? If so, how so?
  4. Is it possible for a system like Breach to exist in our world today? How would the public handle this?
  5. What is the importance of the third, in-between city to the two other cities and to the narrative as a whole?
  6. If there was no way that the authority could know whether or not you actually “unsaw” someone, would you continue to actively “unsee” people?
  7. How do you think Dhatt’s death will affect Borlu?
  8. Do you think the citizens do things just because they are told not to? Are there any of their actions that could be resistance to the overall system of power and unseeing?
  9. Does Breach give each person a fair trial for the breaches they are accused of or do they just disappear? How would you respond to the system used in the book?
  10. Where do you think Borlu would end up at the end of the story? Ul Qoma or Beszel? He has experiences in both but which should he actually be in? And which needs him most?
  11. Since the oversight committee refused to take the case, did breach actually occur or not? What is required for a person to breach?
  12. Why does Mieville choose the word “breach” to focus on, specifically? How might the effect be different if he’d chosen a different word? What other word could he use for this?

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