Author: Vikram Seth
Title: From Heaven Lake
Destination: All around China
Length: a few months
Type: mostly hitchhiking
Indian novelist in China
[Note: I’ve been reading a German translation (which wasn’t very good)]
The story: In the early 1980s, VS is in his late twenties and studies at a university in Nanjing. He takes a school trip to the Northwestern parts of the country, where he miraculously gets his hands on a permission to enter Tibet. He thus decides to hitchhike there and return to India on the overland route via Nepal. This is not easy of course, because bureaucracy and road conditions are mostly subpar.
The book is truly awesome. VS tells a rather personal account of his journey, and he has got mad skills when it comes to storytelling. While I am rushing through the pages, I am thinking: no wonder that guy turned out such a successful novelist!
Vikram Seth’s journey through post-Mao China
Oh, and apart from his exquisite writing (which even the translation couldn’t harm), the journey is quite interesting by itself: a trip through the young post-Mao China, with its foreign exchange certificates, its closed and forbidden areas and its crazy bureaucracy. If you are interested in China, get this book. If you are interested in books, get this book.