Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Wolf Totem

Wolf Totem - The name was so fascinating that I just had to pick the book up. When I read the writing on the back cover of the book, I hesitated - it did not seem to be so unusual after all. Finally I decided that I would read the book. I need something that was a bit heavy and something that would take a while to read.
This book is a translation from a recent Chinese bestseller. And when you read the book - this fact becomes more obvious. Awkward prose and grammar, inadequate descriptions and metaphors that don't fit into English - all of these are part of this book. And yet, when you read the book - it stays with you for a long time.
The story is about a few Chinese students, sent to the Mongolian wilderness, during Mao Tsetung's most active time - a time when communism ruled China in spirit as well as in name. Chinese communism is shown to defy all of the traditions of the past, all of the wisdom that was part of ancient Chinese as well as Mongolian civilization. The students grapple with conflicting idealogies and come to choose Mongolian wisdom over Modern Chinese philosophy. But meanwhile the Mongolian grassland and the awe-inspiring ecology it supports is destroyed.
There is a common theme woven through the entire script - that balance is found in natural ways. It is now modern to protest any disaster or natural calamity; right from a miscarriage to a earthquake and to think of ways in which these disasters can be prevented. But perhaps such things happen merely to set the balance in nature right and to preserve the world in it's current state.

Did you know that wolves do not kill all of their prey? Through spring and through winter, they allow some prey to escape so they will have food to eat later.
And yet today we level grasslands and forest; kill plant and animal life and expect the world's weather and climate to go on as before. We are beset with new diseases; caused by pesticides and pollution and the faster pace of our lives today. If we would only learn to let some things go perhaps we would be better off.

Read the book - it stays with you and makes you think.

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