Word Usage and Allusions Across Time

“Dissensi” (176) is a word commonly used throughout the novel that Mieville uses to describe areas between Ul Qoma and Beszel that are disputed and do not solely belong to either city. The word itself is seemingly derived from “dissension,” meaning a “disagreement that leads to discord.” It is interesting that Mieville abbreviated a known word to use in his novel instead of simply using the word in its original form. It is almost as if he is attempting to be original and creative to highest degree by shortening a known word to have an updated meaning while still keeping the original meaning of the word as well.

Mieville also creates an entirely new word: “insile,” to mean the opposite of “exile.” “There were folktales of renegades who breach and avoid Breach to live between the cities, not exiles but insiles, evading justice and retribution by consummate ignorability,” (134). The novel is already deeply complex and so it seems Mieville intended to make it more so by creating words of his own.

Another intriguing aspect of Mieville’s writing is that he blends components of various timelines into this one novel. “A loud burst from the sequined Ute Lemper look-alike made me wince,” (221). Ute Lemper is a German actress and singer known for her interpretations of German composer Kurt Weill. Another example of allusion is seen in “A ridiculous P38…” (234) when Mieville references the Walther P38, a pistol developed at the beginning of World War II. These two references are from vastly different decades and are casually thrown into Mieville’s writing for no apparent reason. I believe his intent in these allusions is to portray that his meaning of the novel regarding physical and social boundaries in the world is true across all periods of time, past and present.


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  1. emmahenning January 29, 2019

    You make a really interesting point at the end as to why Mieville uses different timelines. All throughout time people have made social and physical boarders between each other. Today it connects because countries like our own are trying to create more boarders between people. I also think throughout the novel he adds words for no significant reason. I think he was trying to make the novel seem more interesting, but many times it caused me to be confused.

  2. dwyerks January 29, 2019

    Im really glad you went over what “Dissensi” because I was extremely confused on what that meant throughout the book and now it is all making sense! I also liked that you included Mieville’s new word of “insile” because I thought that was really clever of him as well.

  3. Troy Martin January 31, 2019

    I learned a lot from reading your post; THANKS! The novel is in a post-modern style which is often non-linear and playful. Thus, I think he does play with time periods in a “mash-up” kind of style.

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