Articles and essays
Shanghai, July 1921
When communist delegates met secretly in Shanghai in July 1921, their individual fates — as well as their party’s — were impossible to foresee.
Inside the Wuhan lab leak conspiracy theory
While a laboratory leak may never be ruled out as the origin of Covid-19, the sources of that theory remain highly questionable.
As I write this, Sydney, the city where I’ve set my life and much of my fiction over the past 27 years, is ringed by fire and choked by smoke. A combination fan and air purifier hums in the corner of my study. Seretide and Ventolin inhalers sit within reach on my desk…
Author Linda Jaivin on travelling with books
It is the 1980s in LA. Party time. Everyone is young, rich and beautiful and has too many drugs and too much time on their hands. Things quickly go bad, turn nihilistic: other people’s suffering becomes just another night’s entertainment. My nose fills with the smell of leeks…
Tower of Strength: Ponte City, Johannesburg
The Ponte City apartment tower in Johannesburg was built for high-flyers before becoming a violent slum ruled by gangsters. Its rebirth as respectable, affordable housing is a model of community renewal.
Borneo’s Gomantong Caves
Within Borneo’s Gomantong Caves – slippery with teeming insects, bird droppings and guano from two million bats – fine dining is likely far from the mind. But overhead a perilous harvest ensues for the key ingredient of Chinese bird’s nest soup.
The New Era: Ready or not, China is here
When I lecture at mainland Chinese universities in film and television subtitling, discussions tend to be lively, with students asking about everything from problems of cultural specificity to the challenges of rhyming text…
The Museum of Ice Cream
Los Angeles’ pop-up Museum of Ice Cream has visitors shuffling from one branded photo op to another, stretching the idea of a museum until it has no meaning.
The Island (catalogue essay)
When tectonic plates collide, they create heat and pressure. The violence of earthquakes and volcanoes shakes and shocks us. If we are close, we run. If we are far, we either look, or look away. Beneath the surface, meanwhile, the heat and pressure acts on limestone to create the metamorphic stone we call marble…
What happened to privacy?
Privacy, like its opposite, Kim Kardashian, is often in the news these days, and not usually for the best reasons…
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sarajevo’s streets bear the scars of the Bosnian War siege, but people are pursuing a relaxed approach to life.
A day in North Korea
Big statues, high swings and a ‘Sound of Music’ sing-along.
Dining out with Michelle Garnaut
Her kitchen rules.
The Baiwan Zhuang Speakeasy
When Geremie Barmé first took me to visit Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang at their home in the Foreign Languages Press in Baiwan Zhuang 百万庄 in 1981, it felt like I’d been given the keys to an enchanted land.