Lots of Chinese women have given us their stories -now a young man writes about his disillusion with the Communist system and an extraordinary journey that he made around China in search of himself and his country.
'My painter friends think I am a die-hard conservative, my writer friends think I am a man of loose morals. In Jushlin Temple I am a quiet disciple, in the Propaganda Department I am a decadent youth. Women call me a cynical artist, the police call me a hooligan. Well, they can think what they like. I only have 20,000 days left to live...'
In 1983, Ma Jian turned 30 and was overwhelmed by the desire to escape the confines of his life in Beijing. All around him, China was changing. Deng Xiaoping was introducing economic reform but clamping down on 'Spiritual Pollution'; young people were rebelling. With his long hair, denim 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; and 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. Ma Jian' s journey would last three years and take him to deserts and overpopulated cities, from scenes of barbarity to havens of tranquillity and beauty. The result is an utterly unique book: an 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.
“Enthralling... He depicts a land of extraordinary physical beauty and interest and his prose is always elegant. Read this book for its human truthfulness and for unforgettable moments”
“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”
“It opens windows on landscapes small and vast, all still largely unobserved and unknown to Westerners”
“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”
New York Times Book Review
“His narrative is blessed with a prose style that compresses meaning as succinctly as Chinese calligraphy”
“Like a Chinese Jack Kerouac...his book is a riveting record of how he tried to make sense of his new experiences”
“An unflinching account of a three-year journey by an insider who feels like an outsider in his native China”
Chris Moss, Sunday Telegraph
“A Sino-beatnik travelogue, [and] a fascinating search for self”
“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
“A rare peep at everyday life behind the Chinese iron curtain”
Noo Saro- Wiwa, Geographical