Why read Membrana, the cult of Asian queer sci-fi

Why read Membrana, the cult of Asian queer sci-fi

Why read Membrana

There is an impassable boundary between our body and external things. The flesh and the machine, the depths and the seas, the present and the past, the true and the false, a membrane. "At thirty she kept thinking that there was some kind of film between her and everything else." She is Momo, everything else is a world that had to move from the mainland to the sea depths to survive. They are the protagonists of Membrana, a cult tale by Chi Ta-wei now available in Italian with add editor. First published in Taiwan in 1995, it has over the years become a great classic of speculative and queer fiction in Mandarin. It's been 27 years but the book is perhaps even more relevant than before.

We are in 2100 and the land has been rendered uninhabitable by wars and climatic catastrophes. But instead of imagining an escape to an "other" world. Those who listen to the imperative of the recent apocalyptic film Don't Look Up and do not look upwards to save a humanity that risks extinction because it is exposed directly to the sun, without protection against the ultraviolet rays that pierce the "membrane" epidermal. Don't look up, look down. Salvation is not above in distant spaces, but below in forgotten spaces. In the 21st century of her story, humanity "regressed to the age of primordial life forms in the oceans. Since humans are unable to swim like fish or shellfish, it was necessary to build underwater metropolises".

19.00, buy Membrane on amazon 20.00 € buy Membrane on add publisher

Nature and time

A call to nature, which together kills (also and above all due to the actions of man) and save. Also because the land of Membrana will also be arid and no longer able to grant a comfortable life to humans, but at the same time "the resources indispensable for survival in the depths were on the mainland". Nature survives even without men, men without nature are doomed to death. Momo is an atypical beautician. Famous expert in the skin, it is a very coveted profession in the world of Membrana. Underwater, human skin needs more care and beauticians are stars about whose private life they gossip as if they were actresses or footballers. However, she lives an introverted and nostalgic existence, repudiated by a mother she has not seen for years and separated forever from her childhood friend (sui generis).

Time is another of the key elements of "Membrane". First of all, for the style of storytelling alternating with the present, and then for the big question that at a certain point Momo begins to ask himself: is the past I know real or fictitious? A question that characterized Taiwan in the nineties, which left behind the martial law imposed by Chiang Kai-shek and remained in force until 1987. A Taiwan that began to question what happened during the decades of the Kuomintang single party , opening painful wounds to find herself. On the way to the first free presidential elections in 1996. And on the road to a complex process of identity reconstruction still underway today.

Androids and borders

The world imagined by Who is populated by androids who fight wars by proxy or provide parts of their bodies needed to save or beautify sick or decaying humans. By creating encounters and mergers in which body and mind are confused, raising questions of identity and strengthening even more that film that separates from external things. It is a world that has not recovered justice even in the face of catastrophe. For just a brief moment, for a glimpse of light, everyone seemed to have become the same. Or, indeed, the last had become the first. "The sun hit everyone, regardless of skin color, but blacks were more resilient. Whites found themselves at a disadvantage and their historic hubris turned into envy."

Then back to the past. Governments scramble for submarine lands but also to maintain control over those that have emerged, albeit now inhabited only by prisoners and sentenced to death who are left directly in the sun instead of on an electric chair. "Although the superpowers competing for the continental shelves and ocean trenches persisted in defending their positions on the mainland, everything, absolutely everything that remained above, suffered the fate of the Great Wall of China: a mammoth project born from the exploitation of the poor people reduced to a simple tourist attraction ".

The absurdity of borders, if instead of passing doors they become walls to be armored or lines to be moved further through the use of violence. The author continues to cross those boundaries: between land and seabed, between body and mind, between human and android, between man and woman, in an almost completely feminine story that reserves surprises for Italian readers (the quote by Pierpaolo Pasolini) and becomes a reference point for Asian queer literature. A transgender tale, as its English translator Larissa Heindrich defined it. Not for the theme, but for its essence.

Powered by Blogger.