|Author:||Christian Y. Schmidt|
|Title:||Allein unter 1,3 Milliarden. [Alone Among 1.3 Billion.]|
|Destination:||China (highway 318)|
an oblivious friend
[Note: not out in English, I believe.]
The story: CYS is a German journalist and satirist who, after having lived in China for two years, decides to embark on a journey: he starts out in Shanghai and follows highway 318 all the way to Katmandu. He is not very fluent in Chinese but he likes China very much. The journey takes him three months.
The book is okay. The writing style reminds me somewhat of other humorous travelers like Hape Kerkeling or Nigel Barley. It’s an easy read, and most of the time, it’s even somewhat fun. CYS floats around while nothing much is happening, and he tells us his thoughts about modern day China and about himself. He seems to be rather optimistic about everything. Which is nice. He even repeatedly claims that he wants to “become Chinese”. Which is weird. You would think that one might want to master the language first. Anyway, CYS is also a former Maoist, a detail which he shares whenever he can. But that only put me off a little bit.
Christian Y. Schmidt lost in translation
I think there are some things that are very good about this book: first of all it’s fun. Then there is the fact that CYS tries to make up for some of the massive flak that China has been getting from the Western media lately. A worthy cause for a European journalist.
But then there are some negative things as well: CYS tries a bit too hard to make a point of being a friend of China. Yes, you like the place, and why wouldn’t you? But you don’t have to become a 100% yes-man in the process. Also, he basically fails to provide the reader with any valuable insight. CYS clearly doesn’t understand much of what is going on around him, and there are some moments which are just painful to read:
“The Chinese know nothing of sentimental good-byes. They just say “see you”, turn around and go their separate ways.”
Just where do you get stuff like this?
Anyway, it was a fun book.