Tibet, a tiny nation cloaked in mystery and clouded by myth,
is the setting for this riveting family saga.
Alai introduces the powerful Maiqi family—its imperious
patriarch, his Han Chinese wife, his first son and heir, and his second,
so-called idiot son, the tale’s narrator and unlikely hero. Set largely in the
1930s, before the Chinese occupy Tibet, this prize-winning novel pits the
Maiqis against a neighboring chieftain. When an emissary of the Chinese
Nationalists offers aid in the form of modern warfare, the head of the Maiqi
clan strikes a Faustian bargain: in return for this assistance, he agrees to
plant red poppies, the source of heroin, instead of grain on the arid plains
surrounding his stone fortress. As these vivid blossoms flourish, so do the
enmity and risks faced by a privileged and seemingly invincible family.
Epic in its sweep and high drama, Alai’s novel suggests the
work of Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez and William Faulkner’s revelatory
fiction about the American South. Censored for several years because of its
sensitive political content, Red Poppies was
finally published in 1998 by a prestigious Chinese firm, and two years later
won that nation’s top literary prize. Download and start listening now!