Routed Recommends

Here are some of our newsroom’s picks for books, films and series about migration and mobility – and we also made you a playlist with our favourite migration tunes!

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Routed Recommends

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Les lettres chinoises

Novel by Ying Chen. Actes Sud 1998 (first ed. 1993).

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Over an exchange of 56 letters we get to know Sassa, Yuan and Da Li. Yuan has left Shanghai and has started to feel estranged from his own country. His fiancé, Sassa, on the other hand, is not in a hurry to follow him to Montréal. As the letters unfold, it becomes clear that she actually feels comfortable enough in Shanghai and does not believe that the grass is necessarily greener on the other side of the globe. Meanwhile, Yuan is struggling to find his place in this new society that he does not really understand. Da Li, who is a friend of the couple and has been in Canada for a while already, helps him navigate his new surroundings and also writes occasional letters to Sassa.

The letter format is very intimate. However, at the same time, the narrators can withhold a lot of information from their correspondents. Yet, there are many things the reader comes to understand even though they are never written. The shortest letters often say the most. While the romantic relationship and friendships change, we learn a lot about the narrators’ perceptions of emigration and immigration, their feelings of (un)belonging whether in their initial or adopted home, and the estrangement that results from them. Les lettres chinoises is an emotionally charged literary work that manages to convey an understanding of the confusing feelings migration can generate.

—Lena Hartz