Got this because: translated by Ursula LeGuin, of course!
I’m still going to maintain that LeGuin will never steer you wrong… but this slight volume was interesting, rather than amazing.
What struck me most was its similarity to another work translated by LeGuin, ‘Kalpa Imperial.’ While ‘Kalpa Imperial’ is a collection of pieces describing different eras in one imaginary empire, ‘Squaring the Circle’ is a similar collection of short pieces describing a variety of different imaginary cities.
(The introduction to this book notes a similarity to Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities,’ but I haven’t read that at this time.)
I preferred ‘Kalpa Imperial.’ In contrast, the pieces (not really stories, per se) here are much shorter, and while I felt that they sought for Borges-like impact, I wasn’t quite feeling it. Almost – but, a bit too much architecture, not quite enough human nature. The pieces feel almost like fragmentary nuggets of (future?) folktales. I liked it, but I wanted a bit more.
Still, kudos to LeGuin for bringing this Romanian author to an English-speaking audience. It’s quite sad, however, that LeGuin notes that she’s been doing translating as she doesn’t have enough energy for her own stories, at this time (she’s now 83).