This Census-Taker

China Miéville

2017 Nominee

Rathbones Folio Prize

25 February 2016
242 pages


In a remote house on a hilltop, a lonely boy witnesses a traumatic event. He tries - and fails - to flee. Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he dreams of safety, of joining the other children in the town below, of escape.

When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over.

But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? What is the purpose behind his questions? Is he friend? Enemy? Or something else altogether?

A novella filled with beauty, terror and strangeness, This Census-Taker by China Miéville is a poignant and riveting exploration of memory and identity.

A short, dark fairytale, Kafka rewritten by David Mitchell, and may well be the best thing you'll read all year.
Miéville's solid, world-creating imagination is shown to powerful effect in this novella . . . a vague and misty (and, incidentally, superb) tale about the need to get things absolutely straight.
Harrowing beauty and existential disorientation . . . it's a Miéville book, after all. As I write this I can very clearly picture two scenes from this story about a boy who witnesses a killing in his isolated rural home. Not a word is said aloud in either scene, but the interpretative stakes in both are high enough to give you a nosebleed.