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A gripping portrait of contemporary Tibet, from the bestselling author of Nothing to Envy.
In the 1930s Mao’s Red Army fled to the Tibetan plateau to escape their adversaries in the Chinese Civil War. By the time the soldiers reached remote Ngaba, they were so hungry that they looted monasteries and ate religious statues made of flour and butter—to Tibetans, it was as if they were eating the Buddha. These experiences would make the town a hotbed of Tibetan resistance for decades to come, culminating in shocking acts of self-immolation in recent years.
Eat the Buddha chronicles the tragic history of modern Tibet through the lives of award-winning journalist Barbara Demick’s subjects. Among them are a princess whose family is wiped out during the Cultural Revolution, a young nomad who becomes radicalised in a monastery, and a schoolgirl forced to choose between her family and the lure of Chinese money.
Illuminating a society long romanticised as deeply spiritual, Demick reveals what it is like to be Tibetan today, trying to preserve one’s culture, faith and language against the depredations of a seemingly unstoppable, all-seeing superpower.
‘[An] outstanding work of journalism.’
‘Elegantly structured and written, Nothing To Envy is a ground-breaking work of literary non-fiction.’
‘A tour de force of meticulous reporting.’
‘You simply cannot understand China without reading Barbara Demick on Tibet. Her work is fair-minded, chilling, awe-inspiringly rigorous, and as vivid as cinema. Eat the Buddha is a warning to anyone who tries to analyze China through its cities: you will misread the future if you overlook the war over diversity and the struggles for cultural survival.’
‘Barbara Demick has produced an elegiac narrative of a frontier town that is a hotbed of resistance on the Tibetan plateau. With novelistic depth and through characteristically painstaking research, Demick offers a poignant reminder of the enduring power of memory to illuminate untold histories. Eat the Buddha is an exemplary piece of storytelling.’
‘Barbara Demick’s new book is essential reading for anyone interested in China and Tibet. The reporting is rich, the writing is beautiful, and the stories will stay with you. I couldn’t put it down.’
‘Deeply and meticulously researched, Eat the Buddha tells the story of the beautiful area of eastern Tibet, land of the fabled Mei kingdom, where the Tibetan people have thrived in a majestic environment for several millennia, only to suffer horrifically in the last seventy years with the invasion and colonization by the Communist Chinese. Demick is to be given highest honors for her unflinching account, and her readers will be rewarded with a transformative encounter with the real lives of some extraordinary people.’
‘Masterly…Demick covers an awe-inspiring breadth of history…[Her] method is programmatic openness, deep listening, a willingness to be waylaid; the effect, a prismatic picture of history as experienced and understood by individuals in their full amplitude and idiosyncrasy.’
‘Powerful…A deeply textured, densely reported and compelling exploration…Captures crushing historical events through the stories of individuals…The richness of this book lies in its nuance as much as its extraordinary detail.’
‘Demick…weaves her stories seamlessly, the controlled and elegant writing counter-pointing the tumultuous tale…[A] restrained rendering of powerful material.’
‘Seemingly minor details don’t just propel the narrative forward: they reveal a pointillist portrait. Demick is at once an intrepid reporter and scrupulous historian; she tells the story of Ngaba, however, like a novelist.’