In “The City & The City" by China Mieville, we seem to learn very little of this (possibly fictitious) third city.

Is there any evidence that it really exists in the story or is it purely fictional?

2 Answers 2


The status of Orciny is left unresolved, and deliberately so. My copy of the book includes a "Reader's Guide" that has an interview in the back.

Random House Reader's Circle: Orciny first seems like a myth, then real, then a hoax--and yet it's never really disproved. Indeed, Bowden's extraordinary attempt to walk out of the cities, at once utterly mundane and thoroughly uncanny, seems to show that Orciny does exist, at least in potential.

China Mieville: Yes. This, I guess, is all part of that teasing thing I was talking about before. They disprove nothing in the absolute, only that a prime suspect for the commission of these crimes (a city), turns out to not be guilty of these crimes in this case. Of course, that said, there's also been a poking around with the ideas of why that might be such an appealing possible solution, why the drive to that kind of explanation.

The "teasing thing" he mentions to seems to refer to this earlier quote/question:

RHRC: The Breach and Orciny are similar in many ways--indeed, at one point, the possibility is raised that they are the same thing--but in the end, readers are taken into the Breach, while Orciny remains unknown. What's striking to me about this process is that the revelation is a bit deflating. And not only here: again and again in this novel, when you come to a revelatory moment, at which a more traditional fantasy would open outward, into the unreal or the supernatural, you bring things back to the real, in all its harsh particularity. In this sense, couldn't this novel be considered an antifantasy?

CM: By all means. There is a long and honorable tradition of antifantasies, of which some of the most invigorating, to me, are by M. John Harrison. And yes, I think you are absolutely right that this is part of that lineage. And I don't even mind the term "deflating." I think it's fair and it was, so far as it goes, quite deliberate. Now obviously I know that won't work for all readers, and I know, in fact, that some readers have disliked the book for precisely that point. That's fair enough. But for me, the hankering for the opening-out, the secrets behind the everyday, can sometimes be question-begging. Of course, I have it too--I'm a fantasy reader, I love that uncanny fracture and whatever's behind it--but surely it's legitimate and maybe even interesting not merely to indulge that drive but to investigate it, to prod at it, and yes, maybe precisely as part of that, to frustrate it.

So the author seems to have deliberately left both possibilities open, to tease and frustrate the reader.


In the end, the reality of Orciny is left unresolved.

Bowden's work that ties into Mahalia murder is acknowledged to be fabricated:

“For real. All those notes you wrote in Precursor, threatening yourself to get us off you. Fake burglaries. Added to your Orciny.” How he looked at me, I stopped myself saying Your bullshit. ...

But nothing in the novel confirms or denies the existence of Orciny, the best we can say is that

once he becomes a member of Breach

Borlú doesn't seem to give Orciny much credence:

That is the end of the case of Orciny and the archaeologists ...

But even this could easily be read either as the end of this specific case relating Orciny and the archaeologists, or a blanket dismissal of Orciny.

  • There's an argument that insofar as Orciny exists, Breach (the organisation and the spaces it uses) is it.
    – Darael
    Nov 20, 2015 at 9:26

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