Unseeing the Seen

Throughout the mysteriousness that is “The City and The City”, there is one weird societal aspect put into place in this book that is hard for some readers to grasp. This thing is called “Unseeing”, which involves the people of opposite cities having to visually ignore citizens of the other city. The following paragraph gives an example of this phenomenon.

“Driving in the Beszel or Ul Qoma is hard enough when you are in your home city ,negotiating local and foreign traffic. “You know,” I said. “When I was first driving . . . it must be the same here, as well as seeing all the cars on the road you’ve got to  learn to unsee all the other cars, the ones abroad, but unsee them fast enough to get  out of their way.”  (Mieville ,194)

This passage clearly illustrates how the people of one side take this “unseeing” business that they are willing to risk their everyday lives.  It also shows the amount of respect the people have for “Breach”, or rather the amount of fear they have of breaching. Breach has so much influence on these people that they must train themselves to restrict a part of their natural human senses. Mieville implements these unique perspectives on life to create a special tone throughout the book.

Comments (3)

  1. When I was reading this book I was very confused on the whole “unseeing” aspect. At first I thought they really didn’t see each other, and I wondered how. As the story went on I finally understood how they would see each other but then act like they don’t. Like you said the people from both cities must be very afraid of what breach is/can do to them, in order for them to pretend like they don’t see a whole other city.

  2. “Unseeing” was brought into the book very early on and I agree with it being kind of hard to understand at first, but as the book goes on it gets into more of how you can get in trouble with Breach if you don’t unsee the opposite city.

    • I agree with all. Seeing and unseeing seems more like a fear of Breach and less of respect of the cities’ boundaries. I think the cities want to coexist as one but the citizens are afraid of what Breach would do if they begin to get along and acknowledge each other.

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