In the April issue of Literary Review Nick Holdstock ended his perceptive review of Michael Meyer’s In Manchuria by asking where the ‘great books about country life’ in other parts of China were. Now, here is one such book – by Holdstock himself – on life in Xinjiang, a Chinese region at least as large as Western Europe. Extraordinarily insightful and informative as it is, I have one problem with it: the title. Neither the population of Xinjiang nor its people, the Uyghurs, are forgotten by China. Indeed, Beijing pays them much, often violent, attention.
Holdstock is a journalist and English teacher who has travelled and lived in Xinjiang on and off since 2001. His new book will make anyone who writes about the region think more deeply – even though there are plenty of others on this area, which he cites gratefully. In some, but not all, ways, what has happened in Xinjiang since the Chinese occupation of the territory from the 18th century onwards is much like what has happened in Tibet, an important similarity unmentioned by Holdstock.