Red Box is a most personal book. Sis is writing about his father’s trip to Tibet when Peter was a young child. Within a red lacquered box, which sits upon his father’s desk, Sis discovers a diary of thin, old pages, filled with words, passages, and stories that would strain credibility. He finds the many bedtime stories his father had told him again and again – here, as a serious and first-time telling of real events.
Sis’ father was a documentary filmmaker, in now communist Czechoslovakia, and shortly after WWII was ordered away on assignment, to a “remote western province of China,” which turned out to be Tibet. The Chinese army was building a road into Tibet, and instructed the filmmaker and his crew to record the construction. This would mean cutting straight through a mountain, the road looking “like a cut into a beautiful cake.” After a disastrous landslide, the filmmaker finds himself, his cameraman, and two of his Chinese students, trapped on the other side of the mountain, away from the rest of the team. They head off in the only way they can – into Tibet. Thus, instead of recording on film the construction of a road into Tibet, he records on paper his travels through the foreign place.
It is a strange land, Tibet – home to wondrous things the men have never seen before. The mountains rise up around them like the pipes in a church organ, and the sky is endless and deep. The beauty and magic of the land inspire them, and when they finally encounter people – Tibetans they have been warned are barbaric, dark and controlled by evil lamas – they find simple joy and loveliness of character. The Father was trying to rush to the Potala (where the Dalai Lama resides) to inform the Dalai Lama of what was coming.
A good book, but the illustrations are not the best for this story. For Tibetophiles only.