Avenue of Eternal Peace
First published by Penguin Australia (1989) and A William Abrahams Book, Dutton, New York (1991)
Revised edition with additional chapter published by Wakefield Press (1989). Buy the book
Shortlisted for the 1990 Miles Franklin Literary Award.
Adapted for mini series in 1992 as Children of the Dragon.
‘A brilliant novelistic portrait of China on the brink of monumental change.’ – Los Angeles Times
‘Nicholas Jose … is one of the most informative and entertaining fictional commentators we have on contemporary China. The insights offered by Avenue of Eternal Peace are as piercing as the day they were penned and its characters as real. Its hurly burly banquet could constitute tonight’s menu.’ – Timothy Mo
Beijing’s Avenue of Eternal Peace is the boulevard leading to Tiananmen Square. The world witnessed what happened there in May and June 1989, but ultimately came no closer to understanding the riddle of contemporary China than a TV screen montage. Now, in an atmospheric and penetrating novel that takes place a short time before the massacre, Nicholas Jose captures this city of contradictions, its people, and a moment in history much as Christopher Isherwood did for 1930’s Berlin.
Wally Frith, the hero-observer of this remarkable novel, is an Australian doctor and university professor specializing in cancer research. Middle-aged, emotionally bereft, recently widowed, he feels himself burnt-out. Therefore he readily accepts an invitation to come as a visiting professor to Peking Union Medical College, China’s leading teaching and research hospital. The prospect pleases: new scenes, new people, new life… and beyond these vague expectations, he has a particular goal–to meet Professor Hsu Chien Lung who, years before, had written a trail-blazing paper on cancer, and who Wally believes may still be on the faculty there. But Professor Hsu seems to have vanished; perhaps he never existed. The search, which has its macabre as well as comic elements, is stalled, and Wally meanwhile immerses himself in the ordinary (sometimes extraordinary) life of Beijing, newly exposed to Western influences, and in a state of vigorous contradiction.
This extraordinary, kaleidoscopic, multi-leveled novel shows us a China the TV cameras couldn’t photograph–the China inside the hearts of its people. It is a moving and revelatory experience by a writer who was a witness to history and to a people’s dreams.