Monday, February 26, 2007

Just a thoughtful quote

"To idealize any people is to deny them their humanity."
Stick Out Your Tongue
By Ma Jian
Translated from Chinese by Flora Drew

Ma Jian is a Chinese disssident. Dissent is a highly problematic issue in the Chinese context especially as seen from an Indian perspective. The dominant source of information on China for Indians is the western media. The progressives in India do not discount the 'China threat' theory but yet, they seek a greater interaction and more Indian sources of information from China. It is only since last year that Indian newspaper have reporters in China. But for over fifty years since 1954, when China occupied Tibet, India has been talking of China as a threat!

Ma Jian is the author of probably the most fascinating and incredulous non-fiction in the genre of travel writing that I have come across on China. Jian's first book was titled, Red Dust. The book set in the early 1980's,when China's opening to the world was still an experiment, Ma Jian, a painter in the propaganda department is at logger heads with his Communist Party bosses who are out to nail him. Jian escapes, not abroad but to the vast Chinese hinterland. In his escape he discovers/re-discovers China, feeds himself by his wits while discovering a whole new way of survival in the 'totalitarian' land. Through his wits and a remarkable amount of mis-representation including forgery, Jian is a state guest in the remote counties in China while at large for his own department in Beijing. The book was not welcomed in China and Jian went to study in England and lives there.

Jian's second outing was the hilarious take on a totalitarian society and its idiosyncrasies with the fictional novel, The Noodle Maker. A must for a comedy about artists, Chinese opera and the 'communism' in China.

The book from where the quote is taken is titled, Stick Out Your Tongue. During his first outing in Red Dust, Jian spent a lot of time in Tibet. The book, Stick Out Your Tongue, is a collection of short stories about the nomadic Tibetans. The quote is part of one of the stories. The stories are a very different picture of Tibetans from the idealized, peaceful, Dalai Lamaesque potrayals that have been fed to the world for a century now. The characters are not so particular to Tibetans but rather are about human nature. Stick Your Tongue Out is a difficult book for the exploration of life in the oxygen rare, rough lands of the Chinese Tibet, Xizang.

Ma Jian's next book, Beijing Coma is much awaited.


Shalini said...

Hmmm..interesting. I have never read these kind of books but your post did create some kind of curiosity (or is that enthusiasm??) to head towards a good bookstore soon and pick up a copy for myself.


xanjukta said...

wah beta... influencing nubile young things???? books...great things!!!!!