Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Last Days of New Paris

Go To

The Last Days of New Paris is a 2016 New Weird novella written by China Miéville. The story is informed and inspired by Surrealist art and artists of the mid-twentieth century. It is set in a bizarre alternate-reality Paris, which has been split off by a mysterious magical event called the "S-Blast" during the German occupation of World War II. This event somehow gave magical life to art—especially surrealist art—which turns into strange creatures called "manifs". In response the Germans have summoned demons to help them fight the art, the artists, and the rest of the resistance.

The story is told in two alternating timelines. In 1950, an artist named Thibaut is using the magical power of surrealist art to protect himself and confound the German occupiers, when he meets an odd female journalist named Sam who claims to be documenting the strange events in New Paris. In 1941 (before the S-Blast), real-life American rocket scientist and occultist Jack Parsons is in occupied Paris looking for the surrealist artist Ithell Colquhoun.

This novella provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Situation: It's unclear what actually happened to the rest of WWII after the S-Blast disrupted the situation in France, given Thibaut has been inside Paris ever since the mess started and Sam's priority is documenting Paris and helping Hell arrange a situation where their treaty with the Nazis can be terminated.
  • Art Initiates Life: The bizarre event known as the S-Blast has brought art to life in Paris. Now surrealists are helping the resistance against the Nazis by creating art to help them fight.
  • Direct Line to the Author: In the afterword, Miéville claims that he was summoned to a hotel room by an old friend, where he instead met a mysterious man who relates the story in a huge, 36-hour marathon. He suspects the man was the artist/protagonist Thibaut.
  • Double Agent: The female journalist, Sam turns out to be secretly working for Hell, although this isn't as bad as it seems, since Hell isn't getting along with the Nazis so well any more.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Nazis have made a deal with Hell to help them fight the magical living artwork in New Paris, but Hell isn't happy fighting art, and is desperately seeking a way to break the deal.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Jack Parsons was the founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, He was also an occultist and friend of the notorious Aleister Crowley, and a science fiction fan, whose wife left him for L. Ron Hubbard. In the story, he is trying to find the surrealist artist Ithell Colquhoun for ill-defined magical reasons.
    • Varian Fry was an American Journalist who helped refugees and Jews escape from Nazis in Vichy France. In the story, he is the one who meets Jack Parsons and introduces him to the surrealist artist circles in Paris.
    • Robert Alesch was a French priest who collaborated with the Nazis. In the story, he is helping the Nazis summon demons from Hell to fight the "manifs"; the magical living art which wanders Paris and protects its artists.
    • Josef Mengele was a top Nazi doctor, famous for his horrific experiments on concentration camp prisoners, which have made his surname a synonym for evil. In the story, he is conducting experiments on the manifs.
  • Mad Doctor: The story actually features the original, Josef Mengele, who is conducting horrific experiments on the magical art-based life-forms known as "manifs".
  • La Résistance: The actual French resistance is still holding out in Paris against the Nazis in 1950, aided by surrealist artists who now have powers to create powerful living art.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Sam and Thibaut realize too late that killing the artificial demon Fall Rot served as the accidental means to empower the Nazis' most horrifying manif, Adolf Hitler's self-portrait.
  • Shown Their Work: There's an entire appendix at the end to show all the actual art pieces that Miéville used from real history.
  • Skewed Priorities: Gaulle orders the Arc de Triomphe to be blasted apart after being turned into a urinal via manifs, sending covert operatives to do so, who do not take out any of the Nazis with their explosives on their way to the Arc.
  • Tagalong Reporter: Sam, who wants to document the bizarre events and living art of New Paris, attaches herself to Thibaut the surrealist artist who lives—and fights Nazis—in New Paris.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: At a resistance headquarters, Thibault observes just how politically diverse the Parisian resistance is. While it generally leans to the left, there are the conservative nationalist loyal to de Gaulle, and even a few anti-German fascists, though they generally don't identify as such in front of the other groups. These various groups don't coordinate very often.