Sky Burial

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In 1987, Blake Kerr, an American just out of medical school, and his friend John Ackerly traveled to Tibet, looking for adventure and hoping to do some climbing in the Himalayas. Approximately the first third of SKY BURIAL recounts their experiences as tourists who managed to connect with a climbing expedition and haul supplies and equipment partway up Mount Everest. This section of the book is of limited interest. It is like many other accounts by privileged Americans and Europeans of their travels in underprivileged parts of the world.

On September 27, 1987, Kerr and Ackerly witnessed a protest in Lhasa in which Tibetan Buddhist monks carried signs calling for freedom for Tibet, an autonomous country which was invaded and annexed by the Chinese in 1950. The Chinese police beat the Tibetans brutally and hauled them away. On October 1, Chinese National Day, monks demonstrated once again. Again, monks were beaten and dragged off to the police station. This time, however, angry Tibetans attempted to free the monks by stoning and burning the police station, setting off a furious reaction by the Chinese police and military. In the resulting violence, many Tibetans were killed and injured, and a few Chinese were injured as well. Because of his medical training, Kerr elected to stay in Lhasa and treat the injured Tibetans as best he could without adequate medical supplies and facilities. He and other Westerners determined that they would document the brutal...

(The entire section is 489 words.)