Borderland Fiction: “The Mongol Would-be Self-Immolator,” Excerpted from Guo Xuebo’s “Moŋgoliya”

Author Guo Xuebo (郭雪波), a Mongol who grew up speaking the language of his people in the Horchin Grasslands of Inner Mongolia where the novel is set.

Asia-Pacific Journal has published an excerpt I selected and translated from Guo Xuebo’s contemporary work, Moŋgoliya《蒙古里亚》:

Set in China’s 21st-century Inner Mongolia, the novel is a semi-autobiographical tale by Guo Xuebo, a Mongol who grew up speaking the language of his people. It comprises three distinct but intertwined narratives: a spiritual journey, in which the author — ostensibly the narrator — seeks his Shamanic roots, long obscured in post-1949, officially atheist China; vignettes from the Mongolian adventures of Henning Haslund-Christensen, born to a Danish missionary family in 1896, and real-life author of the anthropological masterpiece Men and Gods in Mongolia; and the tribulations of Teelee Yesu, a modern-day fictional Mongol herdsman, considered by many to be the village idiot, whose very survival is threatened by desertification and coal mine truckers running roughshod over his tiny plot of land.

The excerpt that follows craftily satirizes what might be dubbed “wéiwěn paranoia,” the mania around implementing the central government’s “stability maintenance” policy (维稳), and unexpectedly manages to touch on two taboo topics: the exploitation of traditional Mongolian pasture lands by ruthless coal mining firms, and self-immolation, a horrific yet galvanizing form of protest heretofore largely limited to regions inhabited by Tibetans.

To read the introduction and full excerpt, click here. 

Comments

  1. Bruce,
    This is splendid stuff. I work with Bulag and others on borderlands.
    Might you wish to consider running an excerpt together with your introduction at Asia-Pacific Journal, the online journal
    apfjf.org/
    that I edit? If so, let’s discuss.
    ms44@cornell.edu
    markselden.info/

  2. This is very well written and translated. So hilarious about a politically sensitive matter. If the author is equally good with the other characters, which I believe demand dramatically different way of thinking and looking at things, then it’s truely a very good novel. Just a reminder, if “kaiguang” isn’t explained elsewhere, many readers probably won’t know what it means and why it’s funny here.

  3. Is a full translation coming, perhaps in the Kaleidoscope Series?

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