This exquisitely illustrated book is a collection of short, abstract, metaphorical tales. Originating from China, each story depicts a nightmarish situation where the protagonist (always the same round-faced man in a pointy hat) is struggling against some immovable object or barely tangible foe, often dashing himself to pieces in the process.
In one story he has wings and the illusion of freedom, but finds a limit to his soaring – a literal glass ceiling – which he can’t break through. In another he’s walking along a road but falls down a pit. Looking back up he sees himself, looking down. But the version of himself that’s free doesn’t stop to help, walking on instead. Finally, he too falls down a pit, and the cycle continues.
The stories are short, extremely visual and immensely powerful. Some are brightly coloured and depict other (often masked) characters partying behind closed doors. Others are set in a dreary, grey, post-apocalyptic world.
The themes get a bit repetitive but the art is stunning, with the child-like character hiding a depth of illustrative style that works magic with light, shadow and colour.