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Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet 04/06/11

cover art

Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet by Xinran. The first is completely shallow: I wanted an X author for my archive list. The second one stems back to 1997 to an online friendship I had with a blogger (although she called her site an ezine). She was very pro Tibet freedom and was my main source of information about Tibet for the seven or so years I knew her.

Sky Burial is a roman à clef. Some places catalog it as nonfiction and some as fiction. My library catalogs it as fiction and since I read their copy, I will do the same.

The book begins in a fashion that normally sends me running for this hills: with the narrator setting up to tell the fabulous story of this amazing character she met as a result of her work as a journalist. It's the same narrational technique employed in Heart of Darkness but Xinran makes it work far better than Conrad. Here the narrator steps aside and story isn't told as a series of extended quotations. It's the literary equivalent of a fade to flashback in a film.
So the actual main character then is Shu Wen, a doctor who enlists in the army in hopes of finding her missing, presumed dead husband. She is sent to Tibet and ends up lost there. Thus begins her strange and eye opening life in Tibet.

Thematically the book is the inverse of Heart of Darkness. Wen's journey into Tibet helps her grow as a person. When she returns to her home she finds her homeland changed for the worse, whereas Kurtz and the man who goes after him are both scared by their journey up the Congo.

Four stars

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