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Darton, Eric

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

(1950-    ) US teacher and author, much of whose nonfiction work is devoted to New York; his first novel, Free City (1996), is an exuberant Alternate History of Western Europe set in the mid 1600s, when "sleepwalkers" like Sir Isaac Newton (1640-1725), and his many colleagues and foes, were edging themselves, and the Western world, into the modern age, but only partially abandoning the extraordinary tangle of speculation and mythopoeisis that marked the intellectual life of Europe in earlier centuries – hence the title of Arthur Koestler's exhaustive study of the period, which he called The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision (1959). The protagonist of Free City is the unnamed creator of seemingly innumerable Inventions, whose range encompasses much of Enlightenment science and tinkering, while at the same time his patron, a magus figure bent on translating the free flow of invention into tools for totalitarians, attempts to take over the world. In the end, the unnamed City, centre of the action, falls. Darton's conscious or unconscious influences probably include Italo Calvino and Thomas Pynchon, and possibly Paul McAuley for Pasquale's Angel (1994); he may have influenced in turn writers like Neal Stephenson. [JC]

Eric Darton

born New York: May 1950


  • Free City (New York: W W Norton, 1996) [hb/]


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