Ma Jian's account of his journey around China, Red Dust, is a book that has captured many imaginations. Written shortly after the travels he describes there, Stick Out Your Tongue, though a work of fiction, draws or his experiences to create an extraordinary portrait of Tibet, both enchanting and horrifying, violent and beautiful, perverse and seductive. A Chinese writer whose marriage has fallen apart travels to Tibet. As he wanders through the countryside, he witnesses the sky burial of a Tibetan woman who died during childbirth, shares a tent with a nomad who is walking to a sacred mountain to seek forgiveness for sleeping with his daughter, meets a silversmith who has hung the wind-dried corpse of his lover to the walls of his cave, and hears the story of a young female incarnate lama who died during a Buddhist initiation rite. In the thin air of the high plateau, the divide between fact and fiction becomes confused. When published in Chinese in 1987, the government singled this book out for particular condemnation in their campaign against 'bourgeois liberalism'. Ma Jian was accused of 'using obscene language' and 'harming the fraternal solidarity of the national minorities'.
A blanket ban was placed on future publication his work. With its publication in English, readers get a rare glimpe of Tibet through Chinese eyes - and the imagination of one of China's foremost writers.
Ma Jian left Beijing for Hong Kong in 1987. After the hand-over of Hong Kong he moved to Germany and then London, where he now lives. His acclaimed book Red Dust won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 2002. In 2004 Chatto published his novel, The Noodle Maker.