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There is no greater misunderstanding than to think that one travels alone. On this epic journey through China, Cambodia and Vietnam, political columnist Carsten Jensen travels in order to find out about the Tiananmen Square massacre, the killing fields of Cambodia and the operations of Khmer Rouge. His constant questioning makes him friends and enemies, but he never settles for half-truths. With a profound sense of the sweep of history, Jensen contemplates the rise and fall of empires and cultures, the birth of new generations, new societies, and indeed a whole new world.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781860468711
ISBN-10: 1860468713
Format: Paperback
(197mm x 130mm x 24mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: The Harvill Press
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 24-Jan-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » This is a beautiful, evocative account of one mans journey through South-East Asia during the 1990s. Danish political columnist Carsten Jensen travelled through China, Cambodia and Vietnam in an attempt to come to grips with the scars these nations sustained during the latter part of the 20th century. The Tiananmen Square massacre, the terror of the Khmer Rouge, the Vietnam War are uppermost in his mind in his encounters; still, the book is not a political history tract. Jensens approach is more philosophical, and poetic. His descriptions capture the sights, the smells, the feel of a place. He contemplates the vast history of these countries, their varying cultures, and clashes through the centuries. He is not afraid to admit his own ignorance as an observer in China, or to re-evaluate his preconceived notions. The heart of the book are his personal encounters with the people who are interested in engaging with him. Local people invite him to their private homes; many are eager to practise their English, and give him the opportunity to ask some awkward questions about their attitudes to some of the horrific events that have taken place in their countries. Jensens quest is, in a sense, an endeavour to portray his impression of the souls of these three nations, and to explore human morality. The most powerful section of his travelogue is his contemplation of the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Mans capacity for unbelievable cruelty is an uneasy subject, as Jensen says: 'Those actions which we cannot understand...we label inhuman, thus implying that evil is something foreign to us and that in practising evil we do not realise ourselves, but something else. Is that the truth of it? Or is this where we go fundamentally wrong?' Yet his journey does not leave the reader despondent over the state of humanity, but rather with an appreciation of the tenacity of endurance and hope, and the beauty of the world we live in. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » A thoughtful, if at times ponderous, passage through blood-soaked terrain. Danish journalist and novelist Jensen has a sense of humor befitting a countryman of Kierkegaard; he scarcely cracks a smile as he moves among the paradoxical cities and cultures of Southeast Asia, save when a "famous professor of medicine who had once operated on a government minister let rip a resounding fart." Grimly noting the overcrowded streets of Shanghai, the impoverished villagers of Lijiang, the orphans of Phnom Penh, he philosophizes and strikes dark moods (". . . this metaphysical weariness that seemed to strike at the very will to live"). His penchant for melancholia, coupled with the fact that his travels rarely take him beyond the officially approved tourist circuit, would all make for very tiresome reading were Jensen not so blessedly smart; wherever he goes, he is able to join a deep well of bookish knowledge to a penetrating eye for telling details. He observes, for example, that the ferocity and viciousness of the Khmer Rouge's destruction of Cambodia sprang from the unformed morality of the revolution's young perpetrators, many not yet teenagers; he marvels at the existence of apparently insurmountable boundaries of class in a supposedly classless China; he weeps on reading the words of an American soldier begging forgiveness of the Vietnamese people decades after fighting there. Throughout, he revels in the uncomfortable tradition of the European existentialist intellectual: "As a traveler, you are a nobody in the eyes of others. And in your own eyes: the accused. . . . Perhaps I was making this journey to store up future memories; in order, later, to yearn for the peacefulness of those foreign landscapes which I was far too anxious and breathless to take in while I was actually looking at them, and which only became real once they receded into the distance." Well-written-though elusive-literary travel through interior country: Jensen's US debut is a cut above the usual slide-show travelogue. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Carsten Jensen

Carsten Jensen was born in 1952. He first made his name as a columnist and literary critic. As a journalist he has reported from many regions of conflict, including the Balkans and most recently, Afghanistan. His essays, novels and travel books have won numerous literary awards, including the coveted Golden Laurels and the Danish Bank Literary Prize. In 2010 he received the prestigious Olof Palme Prize, awarded for his contribution to the defence of human rights. We, the Drowned has sold more than 300,000 copies in Scandinavia alone and was voted best Danish novel of the past 25 years.

Books By Author Carsten Jensen

Politics of Inequality by Carsten Jensen

The Politics of Inequality

Hardback, September 2016
$207.36
Right and the Welfare State by Carsten Jensen

The Right and the Welfare State

Hardback, June 2014
$92.66
We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen

We, The Drowned

Paperback, April 2011
$18.24