Was is a bear or a Russian or what?
At the end of the story, there is a catalogue: An explanation of the obvious which must be read to be appreciated. Section VIII contains “The questions and contradictions and obscurities” of which the above is the first question. There are many questions left unanswered at the end of the story, some of which the author has taken the time to list- but not answer. The catalogue at the end of the story serves to further the quirkyness of the book, and gives you more to think about when you reread it.
This is quite a fun read- essentially it’s about the reactions the inhabitants of a small town have towards a circus that presents them with gods, mythological creatures, and a fortuneteller who tells the truth.
There is a certain amount of racism in the portrayal of some characters, but this is done as a storytelling device rather than actual bias from the author. For example- Dr Lao will switch from talking in a stereotypically “Chinese” accent to flawless and grammatically correct English, depending on the townsperson he is talking to.
This is the sort of book you can read again and again, and notice a new detail every time. Overall, it is a complex and fascinating story.