"A thinly fictionalized account of the Chinese dissident's travels in Tibet, first published in the journal People's Literature in 1987. In 1985, memoirist and novelist Ma Jian headed for Tibet, a land and culture he had long romanticized. He found a country in ruins, 'a land whose spiritual heart had been ripped out' after years of Chinese domination. Upon his return to Beijing, Ma Jian wrote the five stories collected here, and sent them off for publication without considering the repercussions. In short order, the print run of the journal was confiscated, the stories were banned and Ma Jian was forced into exile . . . The bleak settings and spare language work well together, thanks to translator Drew. Powerful, disturbing and complex."—Kirkus Reviews
"Written nearly 20 years ago, this latest offering from Ma Jian to be translated into English consists of five loosely connected stories related by an unnamed Chinese narrator who is traveling in Tibet. The opening piece, 'Woman and the Blue Sky,' describes the narrator's search to photograph a traditional Tibetan sky burial, in which the body of the deceased is offered up to vultures. In a stroke of luck, he encounters a soldier who invites him to witness the ceremonial burial of his lover, Myima. Tragically, Myima was sold off at the age of six, sexually abused by her adoptive father, married to a pair of brothers, and died as a result of hemorrhaging during childbirth. The stories of tragedy and abuse continue in 'Eight-Fanged Roach,' where an old man tells of his incestuous relationship with his mother, resulting in the birth of his daughter, Metok. Though he searches for absolution for his sins, he sleeps with his daughter just prior to her running off with a local trader, and she descends into madness. In an afterword, the author notes that his work is controversial among both Tibetans and Chinese. Given their dark and explicitly disturbing nature, these stories will not be appreciated by all readers. But those who have read Xinran's Sky Burial will recognize the irony of hardship placed upon the human spirit set against the striking beauty offered by the Tibetan landscape."—Library Journal
"Ma's five evocative stories concern a young Chinese journalist's travels to the wild plateaus of occupied Tibet in the late 1980s. In the first story, 'The Woman and the Blue Sky,' the spiritually curious journalist, whose marriage has collapsed, hopes to witness a sky burial, in which a corpse is hacked up and fed to vultures; he meets a Sichuan soldier who invites him to the imminent burial of a 17-year-old pregnant woman, the soldier's lover as well as the wife of two local brothers. Incest and sexual violence figure in some of the stories, such as 'The Eight-Fanged Roach,' in which the journalist, seeking shelter in a tent at the edge of the Changtang Plateau, hears the awful confession of a nomad obsessed with the daughter he has sired by his mother and drunkenly raped. 'The Final Initiation' is the account of a chosen Living Buddha, a 15-year-old girl whose yogic skills desert her after the monastery's sanctioned ritual rape and who dies during her last ceremony—immersion for three days in an icy river. Ma has a keen sense for both the feral and the deeply spiritual in his characters. The book was published in China in 1997; all of Ma's subsequent work has been banned there."—Publishers Weekly
Ma Jian left Beijing for Hong Kong in 1987. After the hand-over of Hong Kong he moved to Germany and then London, where he now lives. His acclaimed book Red Dust won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 2002. In 2004 Chatto published his novel, The Noodle Maker.