Friday, December 10, 2010

Peaceful Adventures: Sky Burial

Sky BurialI'm now in the mad rush to finish the A-Z challenge, which I've been ignoring.  So I went to the library and hunted up books for the authors I am missing, which was a fun way to choose my reading.  For X, I had slim pickings, but I'm pleased with my choice: Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet, by Xinran.

All the books I've read that were translated from Chinese give me a sense of distance and calm, which I'm coming to associate with Chinese literature.  I have no idea whether the books read this way in the original, but I hope I'm getting a sense of the real story.  In this case, that effect is heightened by the many stories-within stories -- the frame of the book seems to be Xinran, but I'm not sure of that, and the book itself concerns itself with a woman's life story as told to her, which includes many of the stories of the people she meets.

The cover proclaims the book to be "an epic love story of Tibet" which I misunderstood as a romance between the narrator and her husband, but is really the love between Tibet and its inhabitants.  Shu Wen's husband is lost during the Tibet-Chinese war in the 1950's, but Wen hopes he may not be dead and goes to Tibet to looks for him. She suffers various misadventures in her first year, and is adopted by a wandering family. Thirty years later she continues her search.  In between and during the final search she learns to love the land and its religion, as well as the people she finds.

I know almost nothing of the conflict between China and Tibet, so I was as much in the dark as the rural people who barely know of the existence of China. And the distance of the text lulled me into a gentle read, so that I was a bit astonished to realize thirty years had gone by in the mountains. An interesting and lyrical story that I'm glad I stumbled into.  B+

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