Tibet is a land lost in the glare of politics and romanticism, and Ma Jian set out to discover its truths. is a revelation: a startlingly vivid portrait of Tibet, both enchanting and horrifying, beautiful and violent, seductive and perverse.
In this profound work of fiction, a Chinese writer whose marriage has fallen apart travels to Tibet. As he wanders through the countryside, he witnesses the sky burial of a Tibetan woman who died during childbirth, shares a tent with a nomad who is walking to a sacred mountain to seek forgiveness for sleeping with his daughter, meets a silversmith who has hung the wind-dried corpse of his lover on the wall of his cave, and hears the story of a young female incarnate lama who died during a Buddhist initiation rite. In the thin air of the high plateau, the divide between dream and reality becomes confused.
When this book was published in Chinese in 1997, the government accused Ma Jian of "harming the fraternal solidarity of the national minorities," and a blanket ban was placed on his future work. With its publication in English, including a new afterword by the author that sets the book in its personal and political context, readers get a rare glimpse of Tibet through Chinese eyes-and a window on the imagination of one of China's foremost writers.
In 1983, Ma Jian turned 30 and was overwhelmed by the desire to escape the confines of his life in Beijing. Deng Xiaoping was introducing economic reform but clamping down on 'Spiritual Pollution'; young people were rebelling. With his long hair, jeans and artistic friends, Ma Jian was under surveillance from his work unit and the police. His ex-wife was seeking custody of their daughter; his girlfriend was sleeping with another man. He could no longer find the inspiration to write or paint. One day he bought a train ticket to the westernmost border of China and set off in search of himself.
His journey would last three years and take him to deserts and overpopulated cities. The result is a compelling and utterly unique insight into the teeming contradictions of China that only a man who was both an insider and an outsider in his own country could have written.
"One of the most important and courageous voices in Chinese literature." — Gao Xingjian, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature
From the highly acclaimed Ma Jian comes a satirical and powerfully written novel-excerpted in The New Yorker-about the absurdities and cruelties of life in post-Tianamen China.
Two men, a writer of political propaganda and a professional blood donor, meet for dinner every week. During the course of one drunken evening, the writer recounts the stories he would write, had he the courage: a young man buys an old kiln from an art school and opens a private crematorium, delighting in his ability to harass the corpses of police officers and Party secretaries while swooning to banned Western music; a heartbroken actress performs a public suicide by stepping into the jaws of a wild tiger, watched nonchalantly by her ex-lover. He is inspired by extraordinary characters, their lives pulled and pummeled by fate and politics, as if they were balls of dough in the hands of an all-powerful noodle maker.
Ma Jian's masterpiece allows us a humorous yet profound glimpse of those struggling to survive under a system that dictates their every move.
Meili, a young peasant woman born in the remote heart of China, is married to Kongzi, a village school teacher, and a distant descendant of Confucius. They have a daughter, but desperate for a son to carry on his illustrious family line, Kongzi gets Meili pregnant again without waiting for official permission. When family planning officers storm the village to arrest violators of the population control policy, mother, father and daughter escape to the Yangtze River and begin a fugitive life.
For years they drift south through the poisoned waterways and ruined landscapes of China, picking up work as they go along, scavenging for necessities and flying from police detection. As Meili's body continues to be invaded by her husband and assaulted by the state, she fights to regain control of her fate and that of her unborn child.
Dai Wei lies in his bedroom, a prisoner in his body, after he was shot in the head at the Tiananmen Square protest ten years earlier and left in a coma. As his mother tends to him, and his friends bring news of their lives in an almost unrecognisable China, Dai Wei escapes into his memories, weaving together the events that took him from his harsh childhood in the last years of the Cultural Revolution to his time as a microbiology student at Beijing University.
As the minute-by-minute chronicling of the lead-up to his shooting becomes ever more intense, the reader is caught in a gripping, emotional journey where the boundaries between life and death are increasingly blurred.