TIBET by Gil Ziff


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Yungdrung (""Small Ears""), the narrator of this young-adultish mini-epic of life in Tibet, is born in 1879, the son of a Ben lama. When Small Eats is 14, a visiting old pilgrim woman stops at their hut and gives him a migou skin--the red fur of an abominable snowman--and when she tells him he must travel until he finds the land of the migoux, Small Ears' father agrees that he is in the grip of karma and must go to Chumbi. So, with two old friends of his father--Mosleem Kareem Musa and Mongol Tiso Awa--he sets forth on horseback. Soon they come upon a group that has been slaughtered by bandits; they have close calls with freezing weather and bandits; and at the busy trading city of Tatsienlu (""the center of the universe"") Small Ears asks help from Rinchen Dorje, a woman whose hand is into most of the town's commerce. She suggests that he become a tea packer so as to get close to oracle Sung. And the eventual interview--Sung is a fat pompous lad of 20--reveals that Small Ears is destined to save religion in Tibet by returning the migou skin and bringing the migoux to religion; Sung also foresees the Red Chinese invasion and flight of the Dalai Lama. Then Small Ears joins a caravan to far Chumbi and arrives at a wind-swept plateau where his companion Sangsang is killed by bandits. (Small Ears feeds him to vultures: ""The life of all living things is like bubbles on the water."") Finally, then, he meets a lama who tells him that there is war in Chumbi, that he must wait and conquer solitude: Small Ears becomes a hermit in a cave, and one migou stops with him there, accepting religion and learning compassion. Too vague for sophisticated readers--but an agreeable YA Siddhartha for those tuned into Eastern mysticism.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1981
Publisher: Crown