“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

白雪乌鸦 (lit. Snow and Raven)

Novel by Chi Zijian.

From the winter of 1910 to the spring of 1911, not long after the Russo-Japanese war ended in 1905, an epidemic of the black plague ravaged the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, killing tens of thousands. Chi Zijian’s novel Snow and Raven tells the story of the residents of the Fujiadian district, where the plague hit the hardest. Drifting invisibly into the city, disease brought an instant descent into terror, followed by an acceptance of death and the dead as a part of daily life. Yet even dread transformed into a carpe diem spirit as the people of the city, faced with the inevitable, decided to make the best of the days they had.

In the novel, Chi Zijian weaves together the lives of characters from every level of society as they are pulled together by the epidemic, and reveals how the deep topography of the human psyche—including greed, loyalty, treachery, compassion—is brought to the surface and magnified in an environment warped by constant death.