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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
You won't always find this an easy read: The weight of human wickedness hangs heavily from the pages of I Have Seen the World Begin. What you will find, though, is a work of astonishing insight and personal impact, melding historical perspective and sociological exegesis with a vivid travelogue that compels reflection long after you have closed its cover. Carsten Jensen, the Danish essayist and journalist, traveled extensively and with deliberation within China, Cambodia, and Vietnam, actively seeking out and sometimes stumbling upon those places -- natural and constructed -- most freighted with meaning for both Asians and Westerners.
Jensen's purpose goes beyond mere sightseeing though: Everywhere, he pursues deeper connections with the people he meets -- monks, UN personnel, children, restaurant owners -- and inexorably that quest results in love affairs, one carnal and the other platonic, with Vietnamese women. The relationships he cultivates also serve as life-affirming antidotes to the pervasive and lingering evil he finds in the political, economic, and social institutions of the regions he moves through. His languorous (but hardly luxurious) commute by riverboat on the Yangtse occasions both shared delight with his fellow Chinese travelers in the transient beauty of the soon-to-be-dammed Three Gorges and his witnessing a brutal public scene of domestic violence that morphs into a bloody street brawl in Wuhan: "I was being presented with another, darker China in which a restless multitude sought scapegoats who would have to pay the price for outrages so fundamental that they may even have been nameless, springing as they did from the fight for survival itself." Jensen's expatiation on the nature of the singular evil he finds in Cambodia amidst the still deadly Khmer Rouge bullets is some of the most incisive and important writing on the subject you will ever find; it will move you to tears -- and to a deeper understanding of our world. (Janet Dudley)