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Yagharek Longs to Fly
Yagharek, from China Mieville's, _Perdido Street Station_, gives up the dream of flight
It begins with his imagination. The Garuda closes his eyes and “imagines it with absolute exactitude. A flight. To kick out with the legs and feel my wings grab the air and throw it easily earthward, scooping great chunks away from me, like paddles. The hard slog into a thermal where the feathers plump and prime, spread out, drifting, easing, gliding up around in a spiral over this enormity below me.”This flight is not just a flight of fancy, for the Garuda, or bird man, Yagharek, in China Mieville‘s Perdido Street Station, once did fly, as all Garudas do. He lost the capacity of flight though when his wings were sawed off as punishment for his rape of another Garuda. Perhaps it is the physical recall, or the memories of the flesh, that makes flight still seem so immediate to Yagharek. He thinks: “I feel the wind force my fingers apart. I am buffeted invitingly. I feel the twitching as my ragged flanges of wingbone stretch.” Yet, these are the twitches of phantom limbs for where Yagharek once had wings, now “two long trenches of flesh” “twisted and red with tissue that looked like it was boiled” mark the spots on his back where the wings once rested.
The wings are gone, yet Yagharek hovers briefly in a moment of confused affinities as the memory of flight creates a sympathetic attachment to creatures that still live in the air.
- Yagharek's Crime
Why the garuda lost his wings
The official charge was "choice-theft". For this, the garuda Yagharek had his wings removed. This is how Yagharek met the maverick physicist Isaac, as they both planned to use anti-gravity to get Yagharek back in the air. It's only later, when the garuda Kar’uchai visits that Isaac learns exactly what Yagharek did. Choice theft is the only crime the garuda have. "To take the choice of another . . . to forget their concrete reality, to abstract them, to forget that you are a node in a matrix, that actions have consequences", explains Kar’uchai, is what Yagharek did to her. He did this when he raped her. She explains, "I was not violated or ravaged . . .[y]ou would call his actions rape, but I do not: that tells me nothing. He stole my choice, and that is why he was . . . judged." Isaac eventually decides to respect garuda justice and refuses to help Yagharek's hope to return to the air. In terms of the fallen angel, the punishment is a loss of choice, an inability to transform between earth and air. This punishment puts the term "choice" in a strange light. Choice here is about existential potential and not rationality. Kar’uchai explains it most effectively: "We must not take the choice of another being. What is community but a means to . . . our choices.”