Red Dust (Paperback)
by Ma Jian
|Format:||Paperback 336 pages|
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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.
Publisher and industry reviews
"Honest, raw, insightful. . . . The Chinese equivalent of On the Road."
"[Ma's] powers of description make every page buzz with life. . . . Someone who could rank among the great travel writers."
--"The New York Times Book Review
"A Sino-beatnik travelogue, [and] a fascinating search for self."
""Red Dust is a tour de force, a powerfully picaresque cross between the sort of travel book any Western author would give his eye-teeth to write, and a disturbing confession."
--"The Independent "(UK)
""Ma captures the feel of wandering off China's beaten track, which is to say most of the country, far from the tour buses and souvenir stands."
--"Los Angeles Times"
UK Kirkus review
Beijing, 1983. Even as he introduces much-needed economic reform Deng Xiaoping is clamping down on student rebellion and so-called 'spiritual pollution'. Ma Jian, a talented artist and reluctant propagandist for the state, has just turned 30. His ex-wife is seeking custody of their daughter, and his girlfriend is sleeping with another man. He can no longer find the inspiration to write or paint. His employers find his photographs insufficiently proletarian. To make matters worse, his long hair, jeans and bohemian friends have attracted the attention of the police. The poetry-loving Ma Jian is overwhelmed by the desire to flee, to live in a country where, like his heroes Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg, 'we can sing out of our windows in despair'. Buying a ticket to China's westernmost border and using a forged letter of introduction to pose (and sometimes work) as a journalist, he begins a journey of self-discovery that will last three years, taking him from the overpopulated cities of the east to the deserts of the west and back again. It is a journey peppered with wild and sometimes disturbing experiences, amusing anecdotes (such as the friend who, on hearing that a group of foreigners plan to walk the Great Wall , determines to beat them to it because otherwise 'it would bring disgrace on China') and endless encounters with Chinese of all ages, all walks of life. Like all great angst-ridden figures of the alienated intelligentsia, Ma Jian reserves a special place in his heart for the opposite sex - there is a sorrowful, yearning quality to his relationships (even those that take place in the bushes, under the glare of policemen's torches). The state is omnipresent, and Ma Jian reads of his executed friends in the paper. But his anger is tempered by the lightness of touch and by a poetic concision quite unlike most Western travel writers. (Kirkus UK)
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