Author: Peter Fleming
Title: News from Tartary. A Journey from Peking to Kashmir.
Length: about 6 months
The price of irony
PF was successful both as an adventurer and as an author. (On a sidenote, his little brother is the dude who invented James Bond.)
About the book: It is 1935, and China is deeply tangled up in the resistance against the Japanese occupation and the inner conflict between the Nationalists and the Communists (who are just in the process of doing their Long March).
a man and a woman (but don’t expect a love story)
In February, PF arrives in Beijing and meets up with Ella Maillart. The two, who initially planned to do solo expeditions, embark on a journey together, going all the way to the Western Regions and finally to Kashmir – overland.
The reason why I bought this book was because I figured it would be interesting to read about people who traveled in the same regions as I did. And I wasn’t wrong. PF is an excellent writer – he tells the story in a very interesting and funny way, maintains a fast pace that makes it easy to read, adds some historical insight and comes up with a bunch of clever aphorisms on top of it all. It is a very enjoyable read.
is Peter Fleming too distanced
Then why is it a 7 out of 10, and not an 8 or even a 9? Because I often had problems feeling the real person behind all this. Most of the time when PF is talking about his environment and especially the people around him, he seems to be keeping an ironic distance that makes it very funny to read, but blurs out his own feelings and ambitions.
There are exceptions though: PF is very sentimental when it comes to animals, and I particularly enjoyed reading his final insights about his companion Maillart. Anyway, it could have been better, but it’s still a very good piece of travel literature.
A solid 7/10.