It’s unusual for a translated book to start with an enthusiastic recommendation from the translator but this one does. The book tells the story of Roi, an Israeli visiting northern India (as very many young Israelis do), and what happens to him when he meets a charming Tibetan Buddhist monk. He is drawn into sympathy for both the religion and the country, with alarming consequences. We see the events from three points of view – an all-seeing impersonal narrator, Roi’s diary, and another, mysterious figure writing in the first person and observing Roi’s travels. A good deal of this is a travelogue, a well-written account of a trip to Dharamsala and Tibet and a kind of souvenir collection of facts on the religion and the country. This could have been better done in that it is laden with footnotes which sit uneasily in a fictional work: it would have been better to have incorporated the information, where relevant, in the text, and simply kept the glossary at the end. However, the main character is well portrayed, an innocent abroad in many ways, who is pulled back and forth by the conflicting ideas of Tibetans and their allies. The growing tension of the plot, as various parties and plots collide with Roi at their focus, is well handled.
The descriptions of the characters are a little hurried, listing their characteristics rather than letting them show them themselves. There is at the start a touch of idealism in the Tibetan characters which disappointed me a little after the translator’s glowing recommendation that the book did not show the Tibetan diaspora in the fairytale manner often portrayed by western writers in search of Shangri-La. But as the book develops, most of the characters become more rounded in their attitudes and opinions and there is a broader view of the disparate voices of the diaspora. And aside from the first few characters I enjoyed the description: it’s rich, but not over-heavy, and fits the place well. Occasionally the metaphors slip into the ridiculous, but on the whole they are well and imaginatively used.
There are a few misprints, particularly towards the end, and a few vagaries in the translation which would have benefitted from a read-through from a native English speaker but it is on the whole very good: where it feels a little stilted in places that only serves to highlight the struggles of the main character moving between the different cultures in the plot.
On the whole this is an unusual and interesting book investigating the state of Tibet in recent years, and the struggles of those who are trying to do what is best, in their estimation, for the Tibetan people in both India and at home.https://www.amazon.com/Thin-Air-Yotam-Jacobson-ebook/dp/B01GU27S2Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492946711&sr=8-1&keywords=yotam+jacobson