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Armand Burke was born in the 1950s in a place whose name he does not care to remember. In his early twenties he found himself living in New York City and increasingly baffled by an obsession with China. At that time the Middle Kingdom was off-limits to Western travelers and in the midst of a political upheaval. After countless hours in the Far Eastern Collection of the New York Public Library, Burke realized that he would never find the truth about China in any of the usual places, least of all in China itself. Like Joseph Conrad describing a continent he had never visited, or Pierre Menard recreating Don Quixote word by word, he relocated his search, beyond outward appearances, to the deepest recesses of his own imagination. Sensing correctly that his discoveries in that chaotic region would be suppressed by the military/industrial/publishing complex, he wrote on the run—in an apartment in the Bronx, a basement in Colorado, a farmhouse in Vermont—while working as a bank messenger, an investigator and a storekeeper and reading the Illuminatus trilogy. The result was The Great Leap Forward, which has been called “unequalled,” “unparalleled” and “extraordinary,” among other things. Today, except after a night of heavy drinking, he denies having written it. He lives on an island off the coast of Maine with two Siamese cats, three dogs, four pot-bellied pigs, and a Komodo dragon.