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Red Dust by [Jian, Ma]
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Red Dust Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Length: 338 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Product Description

Amazon Review

On very rare occasions, a book can be so fresh, vivid and sincere that its integrity will be apparent almost before you have begun reading it. This brilliant account of a three-year exploration of China during the first wave of economic liberalisation following the death of Mao Zedong is one such book.

In Red Dust, Ma Jian tells the story of how, on his 30th birthday, facing arrest for spiritual pollution in his journalistic job in Beijing, he fakes an attack of hepatitis and flees into the Chinese hinterland. Uprooting himself from a bohemian lifestyle and his estranged wife and child, Jian walks vast distances and immerses himself in the remotest parts of China. Travelling clandestinely, and with little or no money, Jian survives by doing odd jobs and publishing poetry and short stories through his network of literary friends. At the same time, he has amazing adventures: on one occasion he finds himself lost in the desert with no water for three days; later on he has to scale a huge cliff with no equipment.

There is nothing emasculated or sanitised about this genuine adventure. Jian is forced to live from his wits. At one time he has to mug his own muggers back to rescue his camera; then he scrapes a living by selling scouring powder as toothpaste. These escapades, beautifully translated from the Chinese by Flora Drew, are told in an understated and elegant style, and, with Jian's status as both an insider and outsider, provide a complete portrait of what life is like for ordinary Chinese people in a way that no foreign writer could ever emulate. By turns poetic, wise and brave, Red Dust is worthy of a place alongside other great books of Chinese literature, such as The Mountain Village and Wild Swans, as both a classic work of travel writing and a compelling meditation on the spiritual bankruptcy of an age when all humanity's Gods have been shattered. --Toby Green

Review

"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" (Daily Telegraph)

"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" (Independent)

"It opens windows on landscapes small and vast, all still largely unobserved and unknown to Westerners" (Observer)

"Honest, raw, insightful... The Chinese equivalent of On the Road" (Time)

"[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)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1016 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0099283298
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital; New Ed edition (1 July 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099283298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099283294
  • ASIN: B003UES3XE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #184,465 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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By A Customer on 11 Sept. 2001
Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A sublime travel book that deserves to be considered alongside the few real classics of the genre. What makes a great travel book? Profound insights into the geography, landscapes, history and people of the country in question? A writer who is engaging and fascinating as a character? Ultimately, an insight into the reason why we travel or seek adventure, or alternatively the reassurance that comes from domestic ties? This book offers all of that in spades. Written at a pivotal time in modern Chinese history as the scars from the Cultural Revolution are healing, but the country remains confused, still locking up citizens for apparently minor transgressions but where materialism and China's own brand of free enterprise is starting to take root. The author, artist and poet Ma Jian, finds his state job and life in Beijing stifling, and so undertakes to 'find himself' in true Western hippy style (even down to a conversion to Buddhism), and takes to a life on the road exploring the vastness of his native country. The whole book is exemplary, but the final chapter where he finally makes it to Tibet, his adopted spiritual home, only to find that as a Han Chinese he is as much an outsider and unwelcome there as he was as an artist in Beijing, and decides that his journey is complete, is particularly moving. A stunning book and heartily recommended to experienced China hands, and armchair travellers alike.
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