Saturday, 17 May 2008
Wolf Totem is the second biggest seller in China, after Chairman Mao's Little Red Book - a genuine publishing sensation.
This ecological love note is the story of a student in the 1960s who flees to the Mongolian grasslands with a work group made up of the sons of capitalist-roaders and dissident academics.
There he learns that the world is in balance: the wolves hunt the herders' sheep, and the herders the wolves - but the herders also preserve the wolves.
As the boy magically floats across the deep snow on a boat of felt to rescue a gazelle, survivor of a massacre by wolves, he curses the wolves.
His elderly Mongol mentor is furious. If you left the gazelles to eat all the grass, it would be gone and there would be nothing for sheep, gazelle, human or wolf, he says.
Forty years later, the Chinese have moved in on the grasslands and their sheep have grazed it away, and they have shot and poisoned the wolves and eagles, and rats have bred in millions.
As he sits in Beijing, now a professor of economics, a dust storm comes flying in - the dust of the lost plains, their grass eaten away after an ecological balance of thousands of years was destroyed.
Everyone should read this book.