The misdirection starts with the novel’s cover. Hasan Ali Toptas’s Shadowless is, in spite of its title, full of shadows.
There is an old saw about advertising that only half of it works, but one never knows which half. And one suspects that despite all the data gathered and statistics generated, the online counterpart remains more art than science. Digital marketing involves navigating, in the words of Donald Rumsfeld, a number of known unknowns: things that at least one knows one does not know. For Westerner marketeers, however, China is largely a haze of unknown unknowns, things one doesn’t even know one doesn’t know.
Shukshin’s Stories is a dramatization of eight short stories by Soviet-era writer Vasily Shukshin (1929-74). If you know little or nothing about him or Moscow’s Theatre of Nations which presented it, you would not—at least among English-speakers—be alone and would have, at least until last night, had me as company. Ignorance may not be bliss, but it can sometimes lead to it.
Ballet, which communicates visually and eschews words, is perhaps the antithesis of literature which does entirely the opposite. So how does one transform an eight-hundred page novel with a dozen important characters and several major plot lines into a two-hour staging using only movement and music? You might well ask.
Sebastian Heilmann brings what is, for English-speaking readers, a somewhat rare European—or perhaps more precisely, German—perspective to the question of “China’s rise”, a term now almost de rigueur.
Canada’s answer to—whom? Jason Bourne?—is a lesbian forensic accountant of Chinese extraction by the name of Ava Lee. But in The Imam of Tawi-Tawi, her tenth outing, Ava isn’t this time tracking down missing millions but has instead been sucked into the global “War on Terror”.
It’s not often, if ever, that Hong Kong holds two opera world premieres in a single week; 2018 is off to a good start.