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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.
“Honest, raw, insightful. . . . The Chinese equivalent of On the Road.” —Time
“[Ma’s] powers of description make every page buzz with life. . . . Someone who could rank among the great travel writers.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A Sino-beatnik travelogue, [and] a fascinating search for self.” —Mother Jones
“Red Dust is a tour de force, a powerfully picaresque cross between the sort of travel book any Western author would give his eye-teeth to write, and a disturbing confession.” —The Independent (UK)
“Ma captures the feel of wandering off China’s beaten track, which is to say most of the country, far from the tour buses and souvenir stands.” —Los Angeles Times