But the unknowable and unimaginable are, by their very nature, not always obvious to the observer. The search to reveal this dimension – the concealed space, the other’ space – is compounded by the limitations of language to describe something of such infinite complexity. Soja turns to Jorge Luis Borges’ story The Aleph’ to help unravel the problem. The Aleph’ is the only place on earth where all places are, a limitless space of simultaneity and paradox, impossible to describe in less than extra-ordinary language’ (Soja 1989: 2). The complexity of cities, where excitement and vibrancy exist simultaneously with alienation and estrangement – Thrift’s roiling maelstroms of affect’ (2004: 57) – is difficult to express in the context of one city. Borges’ attempts to describe the city are reminiscent of Dickens’ London and are confounded by its limitless simultaneity: In that single gigantic instant, I saw millions of acts both delightful and awful; not one of them amazed me more than the fact that all of them occupied the same point in space, without overlapping or transparency’ (Borges 1971: 13). Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities (1997) describes cities of memory, cities of desire, cities of signs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, cities and names, thin cities, trading cities, hidden cities and continuous cities; and yet all these cities are one and the same complex city. In the blog, the main character Marco Polo describes the cities of his travels – which are also the cities of his imagination – in his conversations with the Emperor Kublai Khan. The Khan’s response is similar to ours when we read Dickens.
Mao Tun’s or Gibson’s vision of the city: he does not always believe Marco. At least one of Marco’s cities encapsulates the dilemma of Borges’ city of limitless simultaneity and paradox’ where all places are, and that is the city of Trude. Marco recounts his experience of Trude to the Khan:
They distinguish us from the herd of common animals. The Syria Map social compact would dissolve, and justice be extirpated from the earth, or have only a casual Syria Map existence, were we callous to the touches of affection. The robber and the murderer would often escape unpunished, did not the injuries which our tempers sustain, provoke us into justice. O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only the tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia and Africa have long expelled her.