22 February 2007

From Heaven Lake

From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibetby Vikram Seth is the first truly worthwhile travelogue I've read about Central Asia or China. Seth, certainly a proven author, writes about China in a way that few others can- as an Indian who speaks Chinese, who has lived in China, and who simply knows how to write. Although the titles focuses on Xinjiang and Tibet, Seth also writes about Xi'an, Beijing, Nanjing, Dunhuang and more.

There is no agonizing over why the author is travelling. No long descriptions of foreigners tromping around China. No elevating any country over another. No criticism of Chinese bureaucracy. And even almost no harrowing bus or truck rides (one did get a bit long, but when that's the only failing of the book, I'll forgive it). Virtually the only aside into Seth's brain is when he compares China and India for a few pages, and it's fascinating and brief and not at all overdone. It's also nice to see him point out there is no Asian mode of thinking; Westerners tend to lump Asians together when though Asia includes everyone from Arabs to Siberians.

One story in particular, that I had read before and written about was particularly poignant to me, but all Seth's interactions with the people he meets are interesting and well told. Seth simply writes about the people and places he sees and creates a wonderful book.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your comments. I read this book almost 10 years ago, but I still remember bits of it. And that increased my interest to visit China and Tibet both of which are yet to be fulfilled. Glad to find someone with same results after its read. :-)