Red Poppies

By Alai, translated by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin (Houghton-Mifflin).


Written in Chinese by Tibetan author Alai, Red Poppies is now reaching an English-speaking audience, thanks to a translation by Notre Dame professors Goldblatt and Lin. Originally published in 1998 in China, the novel tells the epic story of a Tibetan family prior to the coming of Chinese communism in 1950. Narrated by a chieftain’s son, whose family can’t decide if he’s an idiot or a genius, the picaresque tale takes the reader on a wild ride through tribal warfare, comical coming-of-age experiences, the politics of opium poppies and the final days of the Tibetan kingdom.

The novel was a bestseller in China. In 2002, The Los Angeles Times Book Review named the English translation one of the 100 best books of the year.