Can Xue is a singularly disorienting writer. Her books are profoundly strange, daring the reader to search for allegorical references and barely-visible tethers to the world they know. In Mystery Train, Scratch, a lowly farm functionary is sent on a train trip to buy feed. At least that’s what he thinks. As the train hurtles onwards to a distant city unmarked on any map, he is caught up in the peculiar affairs of those travelling with him. Every conversation sows doubt. They all seem to know him. He thinks he recognises some from the farm. In the darkness, he is set upon by a woman who, he is told, has only half a face. In the light, he falls for another.
When the train simply disappears (or ceases to exist), Scratch and the other passengers are left to fend for themselves in the frozen wilderness as wolves close in and intermittently attack. A truth of sorts is revealed, a jigsaw pieced together with overlapping edges. Mystery Train creates and inhabits a world of its own; on its horizon lie Bruno Schulz and Shirley Jackson, and the sexual energy of Angela Carter. A delightfully confounding wonder!
Mystery Train by Can Xue (Tr. Natascha Bruce)
Sublunary Editions, 2022
Looking forward to this. Can Xue is always such a treat.