Stick Out Your Tongue by Ma Jian

Stick Out Your Tongue

Ma Jian

These short stories struck me as absolutely beautiful, which is odd because they are in many ways extremely gruesome. They will give you haunting pictures of a China and Tibet that you could never have imagined before you read them. These are also pictures that the government of China did not want people in the west to see. The book was banned in China and the writer lives in exile. Be prepared for blood, guts, sky burial, dried corpses and a landscape of open skies and piercing beauty.

Extract

Before the night wind started to blow, I spread out my sleeping bag and snuggled inside with my shoes still on. I lay on my back, stared into the black sky and thought about life and death. For Tibetans death isn’t a sad occasion, merely a different phase of life. But it was hard to understand the pilgrims who prostrated themselves for hours outside the temple gates, grating their heads on the ground. Why are men so afraid of retribution? I was hungry. My stomach was empty. A gust of air whirled through my abdomen and slipped out through my guts.

Parallels
  • Red Sky by Ma Jian
  • Last Seen in Lhasa by Claire Scobie
  • Ursula Under by Ingrid Hill
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Violence
Explicit sexual content