by Chi Ta-wei
Translated by Ari Larissa Heinrich
Columbia University Press. 168 pages, $17.
A MEMBRANE is by definition a barrier. The word evokes translucence, thinness: the pale casings of a sausage, perhaps, or the uncanny blink of a nictitating membrane over the eye of a reptile or a bird. Its fragility is a part of what both fascinates and repels us, alternately inviting us to break through the membranes and to leave them resolutely intact. In Chi Ta-wei’s classic Taiwanese science fiction novel The Membranes—first published in 1996 and translated into English in 2021—the tension between the desire to remain safe inside a membrane and the yearning to break free of it fuels the plot.
Ruth Joffre is the author of the short story collection Night Beast.