Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson


'God is a shout in the street and the street is a babel.'

Inspired by the surreal accounts of the explorer and ‘man of a million lies’ Marco Polo, Imaginary Cities charts the metropolis and the imagination, and the symbiosis therein. A work of creative nonfiction, the book roams through space, time and possibility, mapping cities of sound, melancholia and the afterlife, where time runs backwards or which float among the clouds. In doing so, Imaginary Cities seeks to move beyond the clichés of psychogeography and hauntology, to not simply revisit the urban past, or our relationship with it, but to invade and reinvent it. 

Following in the lineage of Borges, Calvino, Chris Marker and Kenneth White, the book examines the city from global macrocosm to the microcosm of its inhabitants’ perspectives. It proceeds through opium dreams, sea voyages, the hallucinations of prisoners, nocturnal decadence, impossible Soviet skyscrapers, marauding golems, subterranean civilisations, apocalyptic prophecies and the work of architectural visionaries such as Antonio Sant’Elia, Archigram and Buckminster Fuller. It rethinks the ideas of utopias and dystopias, urban exploration, alienation and resistance. It claims that the Situationists lacked ambition when they suggested, 'Beneath the paving stones, the beach.' Instead, beneath the paving stones, we may just be able to discern the entire universe. 

Imaginary Cities demonstrates that each city dreamt up by artists, writers, architects and lunatics has a real-life equivalent and that the great Marco Polo was no liar. Imaginary cities need not simply exist in fiction or the mind. We already inhabit them. 

Imaginary Cities – Paperback
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Highlights from Darran Anderson's talk on imaginary London at the Waterstones Piccadilly launch of Imaginary Cities.

Film by Meghna Gupta.

'What Happened to Utopian Cities?'  Darran Anderson at the Bristol Festival of Ideas

Praise for Imaginary Cities

'Poetic, aphoristic and comprising a seeming infinity of quotable lines . . . a wonder cabinet.'
– The Chicago Tribune

'A big, bustling book that looks at real cities through the prism of imaginary ones, from city planning to science fiction and everything in between. Anderson’s nimble study is never less than stimulating.'
– Best Summer Reads, The New Scientist

'A compendium of fantasy cities that takes its cue from Marco Polo via Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, this remarkable survey reveals the influence that the metropolis of the mind has had on the real thing.'
– Financial Times Best Books of 2015

'It defies handy summation. Imaginary Cities roams freely, and with easy authority, from the first scratchings on a cave wall to last month’s architecture magazines . . . this is a hugely ambitious book for a small publisher, and Anderson is delightful company as an author.'
– Icon Magazine

'Imaginary Cities is a brilliant, innovative piece of work by a fascinating writer.'
– Jenni Fagan, The Herald

' . . . let there be garlands and kisses, please, for Darren Anderson whose Imaginary Cities is a definitive survey.'
– Kevin Barry, Irish Independent

' . . . comprehensive and mind-blowing.'
M John Harrison

' . . . a dizzying and brilliant piece of creative non-fiction'
– Stuart Evers, Guardian Books of the Year List 2015

' Like the best writing on place (or the idea of place) Imaginary Cities influenced how I looked at my own city.'
Elsewhere Journal

'A fantastic journey through a constellation of ideas about that most familiar and yet alien of spaces, the city. If I believed in miracles I would call Imaginary Cities a miracle.'
– Fernando Sdrigotti, 3:AM Magazine

' . . . he’s equally happy discussing the Mega City One of Judge Dredd or Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or Borges. But he also takes in real cities – current and historical – and discusses the way they too are partly imaginary, overlaid with dreams, from the designs of the architects and then how others use and see their buildings, to our own experiences colouring how we perceive our cities.'
– Forbidden Planet

'Darran Anderson’s Imaginary Cities is a weighty, erudite book which propels the reader on an exhilarating journey through the history of the city in art, architecture and the human imagination.'
Psychogeographic Review Recommendations of 2015

'Imaginary Cities is a book to get lost in.'

'It seems that under the paving stones of our modern epoch, there is neither sand nor dirt; there is the abyss into which all life will fall. Anderson is waiting on the edge, shining a light inside, watching the past and the future collide in one great temporal singularity and his new book is the closest we have yet come to staring into it ourselves.'
– Seroword

'Such a Herculean task requires diligence, a certain scholasticism and an erudition that Mr. Anderson’s got in abundance. He seems to have seen, read and heard everything.'
Queen Mob's Teahouse

'Imaginary Cities, is one huge ghost, drawn by the winding thread of Ariadna. It is until now the most exhaustive collection of the cities that others have imagined, written about, drawn or digitalised, and inspired of course by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, but also by Marco Polo, the so-called man of a thousand lies, René Magritte, Narnia, the London of Jekyll and Hyde, Doctor Faustus, Borges and so many others.'

'Darran Anderson’s Imaginary Cities is a rare tome, one that fuses a grand scope with a heart to match.'
The London Economic

'The depth, breadth and quality of writing is phenomenal. This is seminal stuff.'
Never Imitate

'Imaginary Cities is not an academic book. It's more like the delirium of an academic.'

Urban Residue

'Anderson’s book illuminates these interstitial crags and corners, yet it goes as wide as it does deep, digging through the details as much as minding the monolithic.'
– Roy Christopher

' . . . an exhaustive collection of what isn’t, what could have been and what may yet be.'
Smith Journal

'It pulls in the writing of architects and urban planners, historians and fantasists and philosophers. It is, among other things, a vibrant celebration of world-building.'
Emily Smith's Interactive Storytelling

'In Imaginary Cities Darren Anderson takes a fascinating stroll of almost 600 pages through imagined, proposed, designed, abandoned and aspired-to metropolises. Claiming to be more than psychogeography or hauntology, Anderson combines the visionary, anarchic, mundane and revolutionary together in a stream-of-consciousness exploration of utopias and dystopias, weaving together opinion, fact and fiction to make an enjoyable and entertaining read.'
International Times

'It’s a wonderful, substantial tome and looks absolutely fantastic.'

' . . . a wide-ranging thesis on the city.'
Adam Smith Institute

'Imaginary Cities is one of the most enjoyable and fascinating books I have read in some time, from retro futurism, to nostalgic myopia, dystopia’s and utopia’s, it’s all in there waiting to be explored.'

'Drawing on a staggeringly diverse trove of philosophical and literary sources — skipping at times from Socrates to the Tower of Babel and from William Blake to the mobile cities of the Mongol hordes — Anderson meticulously weaves a tapestry that depicts the city as endlessly fertile ground for utopian promise and dystopian disappointment.'
Chris Taylor

His book is a comprehensive chronicle of the mythic city in all its incarnations and aspects. It could be an unparalleled tool for reimagining our urban future.
The Lifted Brow

About the Author

Darran Anderson is a writer from Derry. He is former contributing editor at 3:AM Magazine and Dogmatika. He has written the 33 1/3 study of Serge Gainsbourgh's Histoire de Melody Nelson (Bloomsbury 2013) as well as A Hubristic Flea (3:AM Press 2014). He has also written several collections of poetry including Tesla's Ghost (Blackheath Books, 2009) 

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9927655-9-0
ePub ISBN: 978-1-910312-01-8
Publication date: 16 July 2015
Format: Paperback, ePub and mobi

Imaginary Cities – Paperback
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