During the discussion last Saturday with Pankaj Mishra – who Pico Iyer calls 'a rare writer who is at ease as a historian, philosopher, traveler, and memoirist' – organized by Tibet Policy Institute in Dharamsala, I asked if he could recommend three books that every Tibetan should read on China.
Here are Mishra's recommendations in the same order he mentioned:
1. China in Ten Words by Yu Hua, the author of To Live, Chronicle of a Blood Merchant and many more.
2. Red Dust by Ma Jian, the author of Noodle Maker, Stick Out Your Tongue and many others
"In 1983, at the age of thirty, dissident artist Ma Jian finds himself divorced by his wife, separated from his daughter, betrayed by his girlfriend, facing arrest for “Spiritual Pollution,” and severely disillusioned with the confines of life in Beijing. So with little more than a change of clothes and two bars of soap, Ma takes off to immerse himself in the remotest parts of China. His journey would last three years and take him through smog-choked cities and mountain villages, from scenes of barbarity to havens of tranquility. Remarkably written and subtly moving, the result is an insight into the teeming contradictions of China that only a man who was both insider and outsider in his own country could have written. "
3. Socialism is Great by Lijia Zhang, a writer, journalist and public speaker.
With a great charm and spirit, “Socialism Is Great!” recounts Lijia Zhang's rebellious journey from disillusioned factory worker to organizer in support of the Tiananmen Square demonstrators, to eventually become the writer and journalist she always determined to be. Her memoir is like a brilliant miniature illuminating the sweeping historical forces at work in China after the Cultural Revolution as the country moved from one of stark repression to a vibrant, capitalist economy.
I am adding one more to the list, which is Mishra's own A Great Clamour: Encounters with China and its Neighbours.