Book Review: The Tibetan Affair

tibetan affair book cover

The Tibetan Affair by Wang Xiao Hui is a novella which also includes two short stories. An interesting look into the world of Chinese journalists and the conflicts in Tibet, the main novella offers a readers an opportunity a window to observe this little-known scene.

The introduction comes slowly at first, opening with the personal lives and drama of the Beijing TV crew before they head to Tibet. There are interesting anecdotes along the way, such as the issue of altitude sicknesses and various vices.

Mainly the story centers around Mickey, who is bored of his wife and loves a younger coworker. Trouble comes when they do get to Tibet, from rocks thrown at trains to sexual tension in the hotel room.

Largely a critique of both the reactionary Chinese government and the hypocritical, submissive media, the journalists interview the police who expound on their obviously ridiculous views about foreigners the CIA and the Dalai Lama… Then conversations start to get more cynical, with takes on selling out your own country. The truth comes out and there is a bit of real journalism, but in a certain self-serving way.

But that’s just a backdrop to the romantic plot, which is the meat of the story. The sex scenes are quite steamy. Dreams are a constant theme as well; sexual dreams, dreams of jealousy, and strange nightmares. The plot patiently develops until the romantic plot overlaps with the journalism plot, and then they literally *climax* into a tragic ending.

It’s all too brief, and sometimes the story could have used more action and more character development. There are interesting vignettes and intriguing descriptions, but just not enough going on. The Tibetan Affair is very much worth a read, but it would have been a stronger story with simply more going on.

The final two short stories begins with Death of a Patriot is about a police interview with a man who murders a foreigner for wearing a ‘Free Tibet’ shirt. The stories are also about Tibet, and this one continues with the criticizing of Chinese society yet is also sympathetic in what has been done to the people. It is very well-done and thought-provoking, a great quick story. The book concludes with Foreigner and the Monk, which is a short flash fiction piece about what happens with dissident monks meet foreigners, and works well as a short short sort of writing style.

I look forward to reading more from this author to see how future stories will turn out.

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