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The Membranes

2023 - Shortlisted


Judges' Comments

Translated from Chinese 

In this captivating work of speculative fiction, the protagonist Momo is a dermal care technician in T City, the undersea city to which humans have fled in order to escape the ravages of climate change. Alongside serious insights into the nature of gender, identity and human connectedness, the reader is entertained by Momo’s dark superpower — the ability to use a dermal care product to peer into the bodies of her clients and know all their secrets. 

Heinrich’s translation is remarkable for its success in capturing the tone of the original, with its complex range of nuances and subtleties. The English-speaking reader is treated to a story that is at once witty and earnest, colourful and sombre, far-fetched and relatable. While it is a work of science fiction it never completely loses touch with reality, so the reader is easily drawn into the story and its allusions and cultural references.