Stick Out Your Tongue

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 March, 2007, 12:00am

Stick Out Your Tongue

by Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew

Vintage, HK$112

'To idealise [Tibetans],' Ma Jian writes in his afterword to Stick Out Your Tongue, 'is to deny them their humanity'. Which is why you won't find in this collection any romantic images of them as a 'gentle, godly people untainted by base desires and greed'. The five stories in this slim volume are filled with characters who meld with their circumstances: extreme poverty and blind faith have shaped ugly men and long-suffering women. Opening tale The Woman and the Blue Sky sets the tone for the book, the creative outcome of a journey the author took to Tibet in 1985 to find spiritual and political refuge. With unnerving detachment the narrator tells of attending the sky burial of a 17-year-old who died during childbirth. After vultures finish off the body, the guest hurries to meet the girl's ex-lover, to go fishing. Incest, ceremonial rape and religious murder in the other stories are described with chilling candour. This collection justly earned the added interest generated when Chinese authorities banned it in 1987. Flora Drew's translation deserves applause.



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