China has developed a reputation for confounding naysayers. Will Doig starts High-Speed Empire with an anecdote of the World Bank castigating Shanghai in 1991 for deciding to build a Metro; the suggestion was that maybe focusing on infrastructure for bicycles might be a better use of resources.
It’s pretty hard to compete with the invention of the chariot, the Silk Road, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, so Christoph Baumer’s fourth and presumably final volume in his magisterial history of Central Asia is something of a mopping up operation.
Contemporary Chinese literature can sometimes be a bit of a struggle, whether due to heavy doses of politics or surrealism; the subject might be obscure or the author self-consciously literary. However worthy these works may be, it comes as something of a relief, then, that Su Tong—of Raise the Red Lantern fame—stuck to good, old-fashioned storytelling in Petulia’s Rouge Tin, a novella just out as a Penguin Special.
Although “Subjunctive Moods” is the name of the second of the stories in CG Menon’s debut collection, it is apt for the entire collection. In grammar (albeit less so and increasingly rarely in English), the subjunctive is used when a condition of uncertainty or conditionality prevails; “if I were the author,” for example, “I might have chosen just this title.” Even a slight perturbation in reality can result in a different verb conjugation or, as it is called, “mood”. Most of Menon’s protagonists are none “too steady on their feet”, as two of them say of themselves, whether literally or as an existential condition: if lives could be conjugated, these would be in the subjunctive.
Every young pup sent to East Asia is probably given Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to read, especially if one is male, and especially if one’s boss is both male and Chinese. Anyway, I was.
Yu-jin wakes up after a late night out smelling blood. It turns out he’s caked in it and there are bloody footprints all over the floor. He staggers downstairs and finds a body. His mother’s body.
The star of Opera Hong Kong’s recent Carmen might just be the set.