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Red Poppies: A Novel of Tibet Paperback – May 6, 2003
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Red Poppies became a bestseller when it was originally published in China in 1998 and went on to win China's highest literary award in 2000. It's the first book of a projected trilogy from the author, so readers have much to look forward to. --Susan Biskeborn --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In short, simple sentences, easy vocabulary, and straightforward style befitting the subject matter, Alai tells the history of the Maichi family, depicting a family of rulers who believe only in power--"You can ride [your slaves] like horses or beat them like dogs, but you must never treat them like humans." Hands are cut off, tongues are cut out, enemies are beheaded, hungry people are used as pawns and allowed to starve, children are beaten for playing. Though the Living Buddha and several lamas play roles in the novel, they are not a dominant, or even a moderating, force, appearing to be more like soothsayers than real religious leaders. One lama even remarks, "Instead of teaching us to love, why must religion teach us to hate?"
Almost cartoon-like with its shallow, black-and-white characters, its good guys vs. bad guys action scenes, and its high quotient of blood and guts, the novel is stunning in its total disregard for the value of life. When, at the end, the revolutionary Red Chinese emerge victorious in the nearby Chinese provinces and begin to exert power over the Tibetan chieftains, the reader is stunned by the irony--we know the Red Chinese historical record, but here they seem more idealistic and far more concerned with the lives of the common man than the chieftains do. I found this a disturbing book, one which offers few references to a "soft," cultural side of Tibet, such as its music, art, religion, and literature. Mary Whipple
A previous reviewer hints that the author may have a pro-Chinese government agenda. I feel this is very unfair to the author. Granted, the Tibet he presents to us is sometimes at odds with the way the region has been eulogized in the West. But that's no reason to immediately question the authenticity of the author's voice. I didn't detect any pro-"Red Chinese" passages in the book.
I am sorry to go on a long tangent, but it would be a real shame if people get the wrong impression that this book is written with a unscrupulous political agenda. It's a beautiful work of art about humanity and should be enjoyed as such.
The book is about the rise and fall of a Tibetan noble family during the first half of 20th century, seen through the eye of a "idiot" (or not) Second Young Master of the family. Think of I, Claudius transported to the harsh dry Tibetan plains. The author achieve passages of astonishing lyricism, and moments of great wit, particularly when he describe the protagonist's not-so-idiotic way of trying to come to terms with a fast changing world.
All in all, I was very impressed with this book.
Kham was rarely controlled by any government in Lhasa but, instead, governed by about twenty local bosses each with a feudal territory and pretty much absolute authority. The main issues of the day were attempts by the ruling Geluk sect of Buddhists in Tibet proper to spread their religion in Kham, where the Nyingma sect prevailed, and the impact of opium poppy farming in the area. A really good description of these and other factors in a very readable novel.
I think China has intervened in matters Tibetan--be they religious or/and political, for a very long time preceeding China's invasion of Tibet. This potential of the Chinese for intervention with Tibet is represented in this novel--but I in no way felt that "Red Poppies" is pro-Chinese or in any way denigrates the Tibetans. I have a passion for Tibetan religion, culture, and art [actually I'm most interested in the Tibetan Bon Shamanic tradition]--and have an absolute horror of China's persecution of the Tibetan people, so I expect I would have been sensitive to any subtext in the novel if it exists in this regard.
Finally, this is the kind of book that helps one step outside of the familiar and gain a fresh perspective--rather like going on vacation and then coming home and having everything look just a little bit different for a time. So take a break and enjoy this magical work.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a wonderfully written book. It is bold, extravagant and shocking in parts. It has the feel of authenticity although who knows what the world of chieftains in... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Asian Mind
A chieftans son in Tibet just before the Chineese revolution. It was ok if you have an interest in life in Tibet in that time frame,
Tibetan live in the area which cover 1/4 of modern China (talking about the equivalent of the whole 1/4 of America) The background of this Novel are based on the remote area which... Read morePublished on August 2, 2012 by L. Liu
Let's make something clear here, this book does NOT have a strong political message for or against China's Communist regime. Read morePublished on May 19, 2011 by ckying
Some books take me months to read. Others take me days. Red Poppies, which is 433 pages long, was a 3-day book. I just couldn't put it down. Read morePublished on December 20, 2009 by Linda Linguvic
This book is interesting overall as historical fiction, although the ending is of course a foregone conclusion, very much in vein with all of the historical treatments of... Read morePublished on December 9, 2009 by Justin Lo
Subtle and engaging. This is one of those books that tells more in between the lines than in the overt telling. A treasure of Tibet, of tradition, and of the unraveling of both.Published on November 29, 2007 by Heidi Schmidt
Anyone who thinks of Tibet as a land of peaceful Buddhists will be in for a surprise on opening this book. Read morePublished on October 26, 2004 by J. Marren
Alai's "Red Poppies", first of a projected trilogy, tells the story of the second son of a chieftain, who is thought to be stupid, but really isn't. Read morePublished on June 3, 2004 by Peter LaPrade