Please tell me meaning of the words "jigsaw" and "decay" in this paragraph.The combination "the crazy, jigsaw geometry of decay" seems strange and vague to me.

Whenever I visit Khartoum I find I am at my most content when simply wandering the streets.The dust, the crazy, jigsaw geometry of decay, the broken pavements, the slabs of concrete that seesaw over the drains, the yellowed neem leaves that glow like golden embers in the sand.

Hint: Khartoum is the capital of Sudan and neem is the name of a tropical tree.

  • I do not think it is fair to close this question, as the typical dictionary definitions of both words do not explain how they fit together here, or that the use is poetic rather than literal. – Andrew Jun 25 '19 at 17:44

I understand why you think it is vague and strange — this sort of writing is quite evocative rather than explicitly descriptive.

Jigsaw here, in describing geometry, is used to give a sense of “many things that fit together”. So “crazy, jigsaw geometry” is perhaps an unbelievable, haphazard arrangement of many things which fit together to give some overall sense of shape or structure.

Then bringing in the decay, this basically tells you what those pieces of the ‘jigsaw’ are. In this case, it means “things that are in need of repair or attention” or “things that are run down”. Everywhere there seems to be many small instances of (urban or natural) dilapidation, all fitting together. The author then gives examples of the decay: the broken pavements, the concrete slabs, and the yellowing neem leaves in the sand.

The way this passage is written gives a sense of awe and beauty, that all of these smaller instances of decay fit together. In themselves may not be beautiful or impressive, but collectively, somehow, it is.

Does that help? I hope so!

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    +1 for a good answer. I would just add that the most common use of "jigsaw" is with "jigsaw puzzle", and so the word often evokes the kind of disorder that exists before the puzzle pieces are properly arranged. – Andrew Jun 25 '19 at 17:50
  • A very good point indeed :) – henreetee Jun 26 '19 at 16:03

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