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March 2019: Tsering Döndrup ཚེ་རིང་དོན་གྲུབ

Tsering Döndrup ཚེ་རིང་དོན་གྲུབ (次仁顿珠) is one of the most critically acclaimed authors writing in Tibetan today. He was born in 1961 in Qinghai, China. He has published numerous collections of short fiction and four full-length novels, and the collection The Handsome Monk, bringing together stories from across his career, translated by Christopher Peacock, has just been published by Columbia University Press.

The story we have chosen for this month's book club is the first part of the novella 'Ralo'. This, as Christopher Peacock points out in his introduction to The Handsome Monk, is one of the most well-known works of modern Tibetan fiction. It was first published in Light Rain magazine in 1991, and a longer “sequel” arrived in 1997, turning it into a novella. The story has led to 'self-reflective anxiety' among Tibetan readers, and the figure of Ralo - who is superstitious, lazy, and foolish, but also 'the victim of social forces far beyond his control' - has been discussed in relation to deep-seated cultural factors in Tibet.

You can find the English translation here, and the original Tibetan here.

Translator Christopher Peacock is completing his PhD at Columbia University, focusing on Tibetan literary and intellectual nationalism from the 1980s onward. You can see an interview with Chris about his work here, where he discusses Tsering Döndrup’s work and how he came to translate this book.

Another of the stories from the collection, 'One Mani', was published in the online magazine Tricycle.

And you might also be interested in the work of Yangdon Dhondup, whose article 'Writers at the Crossroads: The Mongolian-Tibetan Authors Tsering Dondup and Jangbu,' (Inner Asia 4, no. 2 (2002): 225–240) can be found online.