Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer
Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was by Angélica Gorodischer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gorodischer is an Argentine writer who has a take on fantasy that is reminiscent of Calvino, and this book reminds me of Invisible Cities in its intent; each chapter is drawn from a different era of an infinite empire, spanning all known places, which rises and falls in an endless succession of waves. It would be tempting to use the word “cyclical” for this pattern, but there is no hint of repetition in what the author creates. There is simply a continuous tapestry of invention that sometimes feels tinged with allegory but most often sprawls into new territories, new iterations. The empire has the kind of feeling evoked by Borges in “The Library of Babel,” each new emperor branching off from the last, changed from it, and yet fixed within the greater framework of history. There will always be an empire, it will always rise and fall. The only people who see it whole are the storytellers who pervade the world and remind people of its history. It’s difficult to talk about the writing since this is a translation (by Ursula le Guin, no less). But the prose is dense, descriptive, admonitory in tone, and marks out its own path. This is the kind of singular work that stretches the reading muscles and offers a landscape unexpected, atypical of more formulaic fantasy. Not for everyone. Like Olaf Stapledon, like Calvino, or Anaïs Nin, or Djuna Barnes, she creates a space all her own.