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Author Offers Closer Look at Tibet
In the fleeting mortal life, one has so few freedoms to make her own choices - youthful beauty is being gnawed bit by bit by the drifting away of time; though struggling in vain, one finds herself seldom able to catch the vanishing traces of each passing day," once wrote Tibetan poet-writer Baima Nazhen.

And that line seems to sum up the theme of her first novel "Red Dust of Lhasa."

Narrated largely from a woman's perspective, the novel vividly depicts the joy and sorrow, yearning and anxiety and anguish and confusion of young Tibetan people in contemporary China in the face of fast-changing social life, modernization and commercialization.

"At a time when Tibet becomes a must-see tourist destination and anything Tibetan could become fad trends," Baima said, "I intend to give my readers a closer and realistic look at contemporary Tibetan people, their lives and their culture, that both are experiencing subtle changes in a new era."

Set in inland cities, such as Lhasa and Chengdu in western China, and metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai, the novel deals primarily with the soul-searching stories of two young Tibetan women - Langga Sazhen and Yaji Zhuoma, former classmates and roommates at a military medical school in Lhasa, and a pair of lifelong friends, who live totally different lives due to different attitudes towards a modern society.

The novel is endowed with her personal emotional devotion, deep love and genuine thoughts, Baima said.

Although "Red Dust of Lhasa" is her maiden work, the 35-year-old writer has long cherished a passion for literature, beginning writing poems as a teenager and publishing her first prize-winning short story at 18.

Baima was educated in Lhasa and Beijing, majoring in both dancing and journalism, having worked as professional dancer at 12 and later as a journalist, radio and TV anchorwoman, editor and TV programme producer.

She said her rich working experiences enabled her to understand the lives of Tibetan people from all walks of life and those experiences also provided her with abundant material for literary creation.

"Writing gives me internal tranquility and spiritual satisfaction. When in writing, I feel that the reality becomes unreal and faraway," said Baima, who likens poems to "the wings of my restless soul" and stories and novels to "the music from my heart."

In 2000, she decided to quit her day job and become a full time writer.

Baima published her poem collection "Skyline of My Soul" and essay collection "Color of Life" in the early 1990s.

Some of her poems have become the lyrics of songs popular among Tibetan communities in the Sichuan and Qinghai provinces and the Tibet Autonomous Region.

With her simple, terse, and rhythmic language, she narrates stories with skills well-honed in her previous literary career.

Although told in a realistic style, the novel is poetic and sometimes has a mysterious strength.

Baima hopes to introduce her novel to more readers at home and abroad.

"Fictional as it is, my novel offers the readers a true-to-life snapshot of contemporary Tibetans in China," she said.

(China Daily November 28, 2002)

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