I’m a few dozen pages into China Miéville’s The City & The City, too early to comprehend the nature of its world, but the story’s allusions reminded me of this letter from the London Review of Books I read last week:
Reading Neal Ascherson’s account of Moresnet-neutre reminded me of another quirk of European geography (LRB, 22 March). The border between East and West Berlin followed the pre-existing municipal boundaries, but this line was quite irregular and when the Wall was built it cut a few corners. I remember seeing, in West Berlin in the mid-1980s, a collection of Gruftis and Autonomen — goths and anarchist punks — who had set up camp on a triangle of land about fifty yards on each side, hard up against the Wall, where they were playing very loud music and smoking spliffs without any interference from the West Berlin authorities. This was because the campers were on what was technically East German territory. I also saw some doors, with no handles on the Western side, set into the Wall where it ran alongside this triangle, and I was told, although I didn’t see it myself, that every so often the Volkspolizei would come through the doors, drag the Gruftis and Autonomen into the East, rough them up and throw them back out.
That sounds so like speculative fiction, rather than a description of the recent past.