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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great exposure to China
This is a great book that is thoroughly enjoyable to read. It's nice to read a travelogue-style book written by a Chinese author, and the details of his perspective paint a picture that would not have been possible for an outsider. As much an inward soul-searching as long distance wandering, this book works on several levels. I really hope to see more from this author.
Published on 11 Sep 2001

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can't seem to understand the greatness of this book
Red Dust by Ma Jian tells the story of the writer's 3 year track through China in the eighties, before leaving the country for Hong Kong and later England. It won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 2002, but this one wasn't for me.

The thing is, almost from the start I knew I wasn't going to like Ma Jian much. His talk on sex with different girls, partying...
Published on 13 April 2010 by irisonbooks


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great exposure to China, 11 Sep 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
This is a great book that is thoroughly enjoyable to read. It's nice to read a travelogue-style book written by a Chinese author, and the details of his perspective paint a picture that would not have been possible for an outsider. As much an inward soul-searching as long distance wandering, this book works on several levels. I really hope to see more from this author.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre..quirky...excellent., 2 Sep 2001
This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
Red Dust is not an easy book to describe, better to just experience it for yourself. Ma Jian is eloquent, funny, incredibly observant, honest. His quest to find himself is one that anyone can relate to who has ever felt the absurdity of the society surrounding him. I would immediately order anything else I found from this author.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest look at China, without the rhetoric., 16 Oct 2001
This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
I hugely enjoyed this very honest perspective of China, without the usual political rhetoric, or the "I lived through it all, and I'm still alive - amn't I wonderful". This is the China of work units, documentation, guanxi, open plains, minimal accomodation, lethargy, enterprise ... a land of contrasts with a culture of social control that has existed for thousands of years longer than the Communist Party.
I recommend this book in particular, for those (like myself) who have travelled to China, but feel they will never experience what it is like to be Chinese. Brillianty written, honest, interesting, and thought provoking, and at times an inspiring account of a man just trying to be a man.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Travel by a Chinese dissident in the China of the 80s, 15 July 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
This was the most fascinating book I have read in the last few years - perhaps my interest was piqued by my forthcoming move to China. Nevertheless, I was amazed by Ma's honesty and the vividness of his language. His travels through China reflect those of Gao but with a level of realism which is lacking in the magical equivalent of the Nobel prize winner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Travels in China, 1 Jan 2009
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This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
I picked up this book with the thought that it might provide me with a way of understanding what it is like to live and work in a country where the culture is so very different from my own. The book certainly did that, but it also provided the opportunity to travel through China with a companion who is amusing with a strong intellectual curiousity.

The journey through China is an escape for Ma Jian, who has found that his life in Beijing has become very uncomfortable, not only because of the breakdown in his marriage, but also because his ideas and friendships are starting to attract the attention of the authorities.

Ma Jian is an unsentimental observer; throughout his travels his descriptions of the people that he meets and the places that he visits are detailed and have the sense of being painfully honest, but are often compassionate. The lack of sentiment gives the descriptions a sense of realism; this is China without the tourism spin and is all the more fascinating because of the plain speaking.

I really didn't want the book to end - I know that I will read it again with even more pleasure. If you have an interest in China this book will inform you (bearing in mind that it was written in the 1980's) and give you the opportunity to experience various aspects of life there. I think that the translation has also proved how important it is to have a translator who is also a fine writer. There is never a sense of a third person intruding between the writer and the reader. I would highly recommend this book both as travel writing and autobiography.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, funny, eye-opening., 9 Oct 2007
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This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
Ma Jian's travels around China, coupled with a fascinating insight into the life of the author create an amazing combination.For me Ma Jian's character as a Chinese, intellectual, long-haired rebel is what makes this book so great. Whilst reading the book Ma Jian comes into many different situations that provide someone who has never been to China a strong insight into the diversity of life and customs throughout the 'giant chicken' (China). Ma Jian ends up in totally unique situations whilst trying to travel around a country which still has a strong dominating totalitarian governement. Whilst at the same time, it is the craziness of Ma Jian's character that puts him in other bizzare situations. It is just fascinating to see what he will do next. Whether it be a serious situation which Ma Jian reflects on in a deep and insightful way, or whether he finds himself in an amusing circumstance- the author covers it all. I loved reading this book- it completely captured my imagination and made me wish I could travel around China on foot!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can't seem to understand the greatness of this book, 13 April 2010
This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
Red Dust by Ma Jian tells the story of the writer's 3 year track through China in the eighties, before leaving the country for Hong Kong and later England. It won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 2002, but this one wasn't for me.

The thing is, almost from the start I knew I wasn't going to like Ma Jian much. His talk on sex with different girls, partying and his seemingly endless list of poet-friends got on my nerves (even if I think it does illustrate the escapism involved in a country that is in such disarray). That might be all my fault: I am a self-admitted prude that cannot stand reading about men who feel they want to commit, but sleep around with different girls all at the same time.

Nevertheless, there were things I liked about this book. I think it provides an interesting look at the confused state of China following its modernizations. It also reminds the reader of the vast expanse of the country and the tremendous differences between regions. However, I have a feeling that this realization might've been more powerful if Ma Jian's style would admit to paying more attention to his surroundings and not jumping from one of his minor concerns to the next, every other paragraph.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A struggle to finish, 27 Aug 2010
This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
I really struggled to get through this book. I found Ma Jian to be unbearably arrogant and pretentious both in his writing style (I don't believe everything around you can be compared to the shape of a naked woman) and in himself, his friends, his relationships and his outlook on life. I had no wish to read a book about butterflies and waterfalls, but it seemed like he picked out every negative story and experience to include in his book, and left out anything positive.

I read this, and other books as an introduction to my upcoming trip to China, and have not yet had experience travelling around the country. But when you compare his descriptions and attitude to those of other authors, such as Peter Hessler's 'River Town' and the beauty he found in the country, even amongst the more unpleasant aspects of China, it just seems like Ma Jian's ego and his need to be some deep, avant-garde artist gets in the way of what could be a brutal, but still beautiful account of what is certainly an impressive travel experience.

At the start of the book a colleague describes an encounter with Ma Jian at his home: "I asked why a face in one of his paintings looked like a corpse. He laughed and sad everyone puts on a mask but underneath our souls are ugly shameful things. He said we are born in a daze and die in a dream... He sees life as a great blackness." I suppose if you want to read about the world from that point of view, then this is the book for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating journey through China, 11 Jan 2010
By 
R. Black (London UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in China, it is a truely fascinating account of the authors travels through China, although it starts off quite slow (compared to the rest of the book), it really picks up once the author leaves Beijing, you will probably not belive some of the sitiuations he gets him self in too. This book deservedly won the Thomas Cook travel writing award.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brave and Heroic Journey, 26 July 2002
This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
I loved this book. I shared the journey, the comic moments, the despair. Reading the story makes me wish I could just jack in the job, say bye to my friends and family and just wander the country. Like a good movie, I wish it could have been longer. There are passages where he skips hundreds of miles to the next town without describing the journey or any events. Still, the succinctness means there is never a dull page. I also wish I could see the photos he took before they were destroyed. Thanks Ma Jian, I hope you have found your journey's end.
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Red Dust by Ma Jian (Paperback - 2 May 2002)
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