The book The imagined city: The last mix, authored by Alberto Chimal (born 1970, Toluca), is an exemplification of the author’s ability to weave intricate and absorbing worlds out of words, thereby challenging the readers to engage their imagination.
During an interview with The Day, Chimal discussed his final volume of this story collection published by Sb. The collection comprises tales that aim to disrupt the humdrum of reality, delving into topics of imagination, luck, parallel universes, fantasy, and the application of artificial intelligence in robots.
The book has seen publication by independent publishers from a number of countries; this is the fifth edition. There are versions from Mexico, Argentina, Peru, and more. I appreciate the uniqueness and specialness of each edition, Chimal remarked.
Although the collection first came into existence in 2009, it has seen various changes over time, much like a living entity, and has managed to stand out distinctly. However, this edition is intended to be the last and definitive one.
In his stories, Chimal masterfully deconstructs and rebuilds characters, settings, temporal elements, and even the readers themselves, compelling them to grapple with fortune, destiny and even the divine.
For instance, the role of the city in shaping its inhabitants is a central theme in the first story,
The imagined city, where Chimal encourages the reader to view the city as a living, throbbing entity, which is given life by its inhabitants.
My inspiration for this came from a lecture I attended by an architect who asserted that cities were perfect creations as they catered to the needs of a large segment of their populace. I beg to differ. While cities might be perfect in an abstract sense, I believe that the true essence of a city lies in its people and their surroundings, not inanimate structures, the author explained.
Chimal’s work is primarily centered on human experiences; it is a depiction of the struggle of everyday life. However, his stories are not confined to mundane issues. He creates unique universes within each story that he playfully manipulates.
One story that exemplifies this is
Uriah’s box, in which a merchant offers coins that induce madness in whoever lays eyes on them.
▲ The narratives in The imagined city cover a wide spectrum of subjects including imagination, luck, parallel dimensions, fantasy, artificial intelligence, and robots.
There is a certain allure in these visions of the future, Chimal mentioned during The Conference. Photo Drushka Barranco
In his writing, Chimal channels the tradition of scholars and, akin to Jorge Luis Borges, manipulates the mythology of objects, which in turn determine the fate of their possessors.
“There is a pressing need for humor that overturns established concepts. We lead lives steeped in bureaucracy, and it seems that our laughter and irony have been reduced to mere reflex actions,” Chimal observed.
“I wanted to pay homage to those stories, such as Borges’
El zahir, which are filled with intricate, almost encyclopedic mysteries, replete with numerous references suggesting the existence of mythological elements in our world that are far grander than us. Jorge Luis Borges had a fondness for playing with such elements, but he did so with a touch of irony, much like his mentor Macedonio Fernández,” he added.
However, Chimal’s stories are not just confined to the past. He also explores the future in Twenty of robots, a compilation of micro-stories depicting a reality where machines develop consciousness and become human-like.
I have portrayed these robots as characters straight out of fairy tales, and not as mere technological entities. I was intrigued by the idea of perceiving them as products of the imagination rather than just mechanical beings. I find a certain charm in these futuristic visions.
Chimal also addresses the grim reality of violence in the story titled
Mogo, in which a boy uses the power of his imagination to escape his unsettling reality. By covering his eyes, he opens a new dimension for his life. However, certain attacks transcend all barriers, leaving us vulnerable to their influence.
The collection, The imagined city: The last mix, comprises these and many more stories. It is an invitation to a deep imaginative exercise, and a call to reflect on our lifestyle, and our capacity to alter reality with our imagination, a trait that is quintessentially human.