Thursday, June 22, 2006

Stick Out Your Tongue by Ma Jian

Do you think of Tibet as a holy place, a destination for enlightenment? Ma Jian did until he went there in 1985. He found impoverished people living in a desolate land where the Communist Chinese had destroyed and corrupted the monesteries. Most of the holy men had fled the country. Stick Out Your Tongue is a small collection of short stories based on his Tibetan experiences.

Ma Jian was in Hong Hong when his stories were published in China in 1987, so he avoided arrest. The Chinese authories took great offense at his portrayal of Tibet and tried to destroy all copies, which made them more popular, of course. According to the Afterword in Stick Out Your Tongue all his writings have banned in China since that time.

Ma Jian's stories are tales of despair in which people do terrible things. If the book ever became popular, Tibetan travel would decline dramatically.

The first English edition of the book was just published in 2005. It is small and light and can easily be taken on a plane to read. It could easily be read in the air between Chicago and New Orleans. Be warned that you won't sleep during the flight.

Ma, Jian. Stick Out Your Tongue. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006 ISBN 0374269882

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