How a novelist found the lost city of Shanghai


White shanghaiElvira Baryakina talks about her novel ‘White Shanghai,’ a work that connects wildly different tales of struggle and survival in the best traditions of epic Russian storytelling (Russia Beyond Headlines)

After the Bolshevik Revolution, tens of thousands of Russians fled to Shanghai, which became Asia’s most cosmopolitan city.

Historical novelist Elvira Baryakina’s portrait of the roaring twenties in “White Shanghai” is a suitably bewildering kaleidoscope: prostitutes, bandits and fortune-telling Buddhist monks, warrior Cossacks and singing Mexicans. “Almost like Paris, New York, and Babylon combined,” is how Baryakina described 1920s Shanghai in an interview with RBTH.

One Russian émigré, a distant relative of Baryakina’s, told her about life in Shanghai: “It was a special world, something completely unique … But when the Japanese occupied the city, and later Mao exiled the white colonists from the country … old Shanghai disappeared forever.” A lost city was an irresistible topic for historical fiction.

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