“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

Heaven -- Tibet

Heaven – Tibet
by Ning Ken 宁肯
Beijing October Arts and Literature Publishing House
June, 2010

Set in today’s Tibet, Heaven – Tibet explores three different characters’ spiritual experiences in that human heaven.

Wang Mojie was once a professor of philosophy in Beijing. In the late 1980s he left Beijing for Tibet to work in a primary school in the suburbs of Lhasa, where he lived like a philosopher, trying to construct his own spiritual homeland in Tibet. But Wang has a secret: his penchant for masochism, and the thrill of being abused by women dressed as police officers.

Martin is a French professor of biology who gave up his life in France to practiced Buddhism in a Tibetan temple. His father is a sceptic philosopher who doesn’t understand his son’s choice. When his father makes a short trip to Lhasa to visit him, they begin a long debate on eastern and western philosophy that forms the heart of the novel.

Weige is from a Han-Tibetan family. She grew up in Beijing and studied French, and Martin is her spiritual teacher. She falls in love with Wang Mojie, but can’t stand his masochism, and is torn between staying with him, or devoting herself to her work in the Tibetan Museum.

Heaven – Tibet consists largely of monologue and dialogue on the subjects of religion belief, philosophy and life, exploring the state and direction of human existence. During the course of the novel the author experiments in style, sometimes narrating in the first person, sometimes in the third person, blending modernism and post-modernism into a new sort of realism. Though it’s a novel of ideas, it is an easy and fluid read. The author’s delicate descriptions of the landscapes around Lhasa form an important setting for the story.

The author Ning Ken was born in Beijing in 1959. He began his literary career with poems, such as "Snow Drift Dreams" (积雪之梦). His best-known novel is Veiled City (Mengmian Zhicheng, 蒙面之城), which won the Best Novel Award in the second Laoshe Literature Prize of 2002.

The book’s editor, October’s Wang Deling says that the book is aimed mostly at lovers of literary fiction and those interested in Tibetan culture, but acknowledges that the philosophical and religious content, may deter some readers. Even so, the book appeals to a current of soul-seeking on the rise among Chinese readers.

In the month or so since the book's release, "much" of its initial print run of 10 thousand has sold out, and it has made Sina.com's list of the best books of the first half of 2010. All overseas copyrights are currently available.