Some books lure us into new lives and unexpected worlds. Here, the person is the author himself, Naktsang Nulo, a Tibetan born in 1949 and writing in this memoir of his childhood in western China where many Tibetans live, speaking, and writing a dialect incomprehensible to Tibetans in Western and Central Tibet. The idyllic-sounding grasslands known to Tibetans as Amdo and Kham, a six-month trek from Lhasa in the early Fifties, were, in those days, lightly administered by Peking and populated mostly by Tibetans. Little Nulo lived in Amdo, under the rule of clans and chieftains. Known as Eastern Tibet, nowadays over half of all ethnic Tibetans live there. He became a minor Chinese official and still lives in the Tibetan region. There is no other such an apolitical book, known to me, by a Tibetan living and working in Tibet. His story, properly published and originally intended for 3000 internal readers, soon rocketed into thousands of pirated copies, eventually published in standard Tibetan, and then, in Taiwan, in Chinese. Neither the Chinese nor the Tibetan diaspora will be able to claim that Naktsang’s memoir accords with their conflicting views of the nature of Tibet and its people – although official Chinese will dislike it more because it makes plain the cruelty of their soldiers during the later Fifties.
If Columbia University’s Robert Barnett had not supplied the substantial and informative introduction, however, many readers, including this one, would not have understood the many levels of what seems like a child’s story. Because of Mr Barnett’s essay however, which places this story in the tradition of literature from Amdo, where the child Nulo was born and lived, I have not only understood what I was reading, but for the first time, as an adult reader, was willing to overlook the verbatim dialogues that allegedly occurred decades ago, including when the author was still at his mother’s breast. Naktsang insists every word of the memoir is true. In this unique case, persuaded by Mr Barnett, and probably never again when faced with 40 year-old total recall, I did not lay the book aside after twenty pages. [Source]