Mandy-Suzanne Wong – The Box
In a dark and crooked lane in an unnamed city where it never ceases to snow, a small white box falls from a coat pocket. It is made of paper strips woven tightly together; there is no apparent way to open it without destroying it. What compels a passing witness, a self-described anthrophobe not inclined to engage with other people, to pick up the box and chase after the stranger who dropped it?
The Box follows an impenetrable rectangle as it changes hands in a collapsing metropolis, causing confluences, conflicts, rifts, and disasters. Different narrators, each with a distinctive voice, give secondhand accounts of decisive moments in the box’s life. From the anthrophobe to a newly hired curator of a renowned art collection, from a couple who own an antiquarian bookshop to a hotel bartender hiding from a terrible past, the storytellers repeat rumors and rely on faulty memories, grasping at something that continually escapes them. Haunting their recollections is one mysterious woman who, convinced of the box’s good or evil powers, pursues it with deadly desperation.
In this mesmerizing, intricately constructed puzzle of a novel, Mandy-Suzanne Wong challenges our understanding of subjects and objects, of cause and effect. Is it only humans who have agency? What is or isn’t animate? What do we value and what do we discard?