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Eat the Buddha

Life and Death in a Tibetan Town

Barbara Demick

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Text Publishing Company
18 August 2020
An unprecedented exploration of contemporary Tibet, one of the world's most inaccessible places, geographically and politically, and one of its most misunderstood.

For centuries, Tibet was known as a hermit kingdom. Its charms were hidden by the natural barrier of the Himalayas to its west and by a reclusive theocratic government ruled by a succession of Dalai Lamas...

Nowadays it is not the Tibetans shutting the door, but a paranoid Chinese Communist Party. China has ruled Tibet since 1950, and is a most unwelcoming gatekeeper.

In Eat the Buddha, Barbara Demick, award-winning author of Nothing to Envy, journeys to a small town high on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. The residents of Aba have been in an uneasy compromise with the Chinese for decades, living nomadically on the plateau in the summer and moving to concrete housing in the winter, sending their children to monasteries to be educated, practising polyandry as is their custom-yet all the time subject to oppressive restrictions.

Travelling in disguise to evade the Chinese authorities, Demick interviewed Tibetans over three years- among them a novice monk contemplating protest suicide, the last princess of the region exiled during the Cultural Revolution and a young woman trapped in a bigamous marriage.

Weaving together their stories with the history of China's dominance over Tibet, she creates a vivid portrait of the lives of a people locked in a struggle for identity and independence.
By:   Barbara Demick
Imprint:   Text Publishing Company
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 155mm,  Spine: 25mm
Weight:   462g
ISBN:   9781925498783
ISBN 10:   1925498786
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   18 August 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Barbara Demick is the New York correspondent of the Los Angeles Times. She has lived in and reported from China, North Korea, South Korea, Tibet, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has written three books- Logavina Street- Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood, Nothing to Envy- Ordinary Lives in North Korea and now Eat the Buddha- Life and Death in a Tibetan Town. Demick is the winner of Britain's Samuel Johnson Award for best non-fiction, the George Polk Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Award, as well as the Osborn Elliot Prize for Journalism from the Asia Society and the Overseas Press Club, the American Academy of Diplomacy's Arthur Ross Award and Stanford University's Shorenstein Award for best Asia reporting. She has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

Reviews for Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town

'[Gives] the endless oppression of the Tibetans by the Chinese a human face .' * Spectator * 'Demick's story is extraordinary, her characters well-sketched.' * Radio NZ * 'Demick writes with luminous hope and you can't help but feel the actual existence of a book might shine a much-needed light on what the Chinese government is seeking to keep a tight lid on.' * Bookmunch * 'Seemingly minor details don't just propel the narrative forward: they reveal a pointillist portrait. Demick is at once an intrepid reporter and scrupulous historian; she tells the story of Ngaba, however, like a novelist.' * Guardian * 'Demick...weaves her stories seamlessly, the controlled and elegant writing counter-pointing the tumultuous tale...[A] restrained rendering of powerful material.' * Sydney Morning Herald * 'Powerful...A deeply textured, densely reported and compelling exploration...Captures crushing historical events through the stories of individuals...The richness of this book lies in its nuance as much as its extraordinary detail.' * Observer * 'Masterly...Demick covers an awe-inspiring breadth of history...[Her] method is programmatic openness, deep listening, a willingness to be waylaid; the effect, a prismatic picture of history as experienced and understood by individuals in their full amplitude and idiosyncrasy.' * New York Times * 'Deeply and meticulously researched, Eat the Buddha tells the story of the beautiful area of eastern Tibet, land of the fabled Mei kingdom, where the Tibetan people have thrived in a majestic environment for several millennia, only to suffer horrifically in the last seventy years with the invasion and colonization by the Communist Chinese. Demick is to be given highest honors for her unflinching account, and her readers will be rewarded with a transformative encounter with the real lives of some extraordinary people.' * Robert A. F. Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Professor Emeritus, Columbia University * 'Barbara Demick's new book is essential reading for anyone interested in China and Tibet. The reporting is rich, the writing is beautiful, and the stories will stay with you. I couldn't put it down.' * John Pomfret, author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom * 'Barbara Demick has produced an elegiac narrative of a frontier town that is a hotbed of resistance on the Tibetan plateau. With novelistic depth and through characteristically painstaking research, Demick offers a poignant reminder of the enduring power of memory to illuminate untold histories. Eat the Buddha is an exemplary piece of storytelling.' * Tsering Shakya, author of The Dragon in the Land of Snows * 'You simply cannot understand China without reading Barbara Demick on Tibet. Her work is fair-minded, chilling, awe-inspiringly rigorous, and as vivid as cinema. Eat the Buddha is a warning to anyone who tries to analyze China through its cities: you will misread the future if you overlook the war over diversity and the struggles for cultural survival.' * Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition * 'A tour de force of meticulous reporting.' * New York Review of Books on Nothing to Envy * 'Elegantly structured and written, Nothing To Envy is a ground-breaking work of literary non-fiction.' * Slate on Nothing to Envy * '[An] outstanding work of journalism.' * The Times on Nothing to Envy *


  • Long-listed for Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non-Fiction 2021 (United States)
  • Short-listed for Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2020 (UK)

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