Nod Ghosh begins her new novella, The Two-Tailed Snake, with some wise words from the perspective of a snake.
When they meet, more like run into each other, on the Trans-Siberian just past Krasnoyarsk, Aliocha and Hélène are both trying to escape: he from the draft, she from a boyfriend. Aliocha, hardly more than a boy, is in a group of conscripts being sent to camp in Siberia; intending to desert, he tries and fails to sneak off the train at Krasnoyarsk.
A summer 2021 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted thirty years of worsening climate impacts—and that nothing can be done to stop it. Heat waves. Droughts. Wildfires. Flooding. Given bleak environmental news, staggering global inequality (the world’s richest 1% hold more than 40% of the world’s wealth), a resurgent refugee crisis, and the growth of authoritarianism worldwide, young people could be forgiven for thinking they don’t have much to look forward to. “In this era,” author Takuji Ichikawa asks, “What should a novel look like?”
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.