Alai's The Song of King Gesar reviewed by B J Epstein
Tibetan writer Alai’s novel The Song of Gesar, translated from Chinese by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Lin, explores what’s in the hearts of both humans and deities. It’s an epic story from Tibet, told by generations of bards, and now in a written format by Alai; the author of a number of novels and collections of poetry and short stories (besides Gesar, only his novel Red Poppies seems available in English).
Such passages make the reader (and the characters) wonder whether the gods actually care about humans. Will they help humans or do they expect humans to sort things out on their own? What actually would be best for people? And what are the deities up to anyway? As this might show, The Song of Gesar is part of Canongate’s brilliant Myths series (which also includes work by Ali Smith, Klas Östergren, and Margaret Atwood, among many other important writers), and it’s a vital addition, as this is the first time the Tibetan story has appeared in English.