Edward Carey’s Alva & Irva: The Twins who Saved a City by Patrick McGrath

Edward Carey’s whimsical and affecting novel Alva & Irva is the story of twins who create a tiny city only to have it racked by an earthquake.

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 83 Spring 2003
BOMB 083

Now comes a new novel from Edward Carey, author of Observatory Mansions, one of the strangest and most original works of fiction of recent years. Alva & Irva conveys, at first, a faint whiff of Borges in its treatment of maps and models and their relation to the real world. Edward Carey has not merely invented a city, he has invented a pair of twins who re-create that city in miniature. The novel tells the story of the extraordinary fate of this tiny city, as well as the story of the twins and various other residents of the place. The early chapters have the rather kitschy whimsicality of a guidebook for tourists, but with the coming of an earthquake the playfulness evaporates and larger themes emerge, and a book that starts out as light and weird becomes a beautifully affecting—and eminently topical—exploration of urban destruction, the persistence of hope, and the human need to memorialize. In the process it turns into a much broader and deeper book: a triumph of pure vigorous imagination, a sad tale of obsession, and a grimly plausible portrait of a city overwhelmed by catastrophe.


Alva & Irva was published in March 2003 by Harcourt Books.

Center Love: Caleb Azumah Nelson Interviewed by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

A novel about two Black British artists who fall in love and are forced to face challenges beyond their control.

Unavoidable and Unsettling Intimacy: A Conversation by Katie Kitamura & Ashley Nelson Levy
Katie Kitamura Ashley Levy Blue

Two novels about grief, translation, and the revelatory traces of language.

Loneliness, Longing, and Inherited Grief: Jean Kyoung Frazier Interviewed by Kayla Maiuri
Cover of Jean Kyoung Frazier's novel Pizza Girl

A slacker novel that fights against the philosophy of brokenness, one Hot Cheetos bag at a time.

Originally published in

BOMB 83, Spring 2003

Featuring interviews with Paul Pfeiffer, Pat Steir, Tom Sachs, Marie Ponsot, Steven Millhauser, Meshell Ndegeocelo, David Greenspan, and Neil Labute.

Read the issue
BOMB 083