A slow, spread out read of Peter Fleming‘s revived diary of his 1934 journey through the Caucasus, Central Asia Siberia, Mongolia, Manchukuo and China, which falls between One’s Company and News from Tartary (perhaps it’s time for a reread of that)
Simon Winchester’s foreward made the 1930’s privileged tone more bearable.
Publisher page: To Peking: A Forgotten Journey from Moscow to Manchuria – Peter Fleming
In 1933 Peter Fleming (brother of Ian “James Bond” Fleming) blagged funds to travel to China from The Times, The Spectator and his publisher, with the promise to “write a series of articles on China, each one more portentous and comprehensive than the last…..
This is his account of that fascinating time in China’s history – in the far north, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria (Manchukuo) were under Japanese rule and beset by bandits; in the south, the Communists and the Nationalists were battling it out in the Chinese Civil War.
Fleming didn’t make it to the far west – if he had, he’d have found himself in the first East Turkestan Republic. But two years later he was – as he and Ella Maillart travelled overland from China to India, as told in News from Tartary.
In terms of style and commentary, I’d say it’s definitely “of its time” too.
Publisher page: One’s Company: A Journey to China in 1933 – Peter Fleming
A two stage read, but one I’m glad I persevered with – especially once Peter Fleming and Ella Maillart’s journey reached the far west of China, and headed over into the Hunza valley and into what is now Pakistan, what was then British India.
It’s a fascinating account of China and the North West Frontier in the mid 1930s, complete with what now read as antiquated spellings and opinions/perspectives. The book tell of the seven months Fleming and Kini spent on the 3500 mile journey from Peking to Kashmir, travelling by camel, donkey, horse and foot during a wartorn time for the far flung provinces of the Chinese world – and with the final rumblings of the Great Game still sounding loudly in this remote part of the world where Russian, British and Chinese empires met. As the intrepid explorers travel further west, they travel through a desert region populated mainly by nomads and warlords who view themselves as having more in common with their fellow Tatar tribes of Central Asia than the Chinese holding power in Peking.
Next: tracking down Forbidden Journey for Ella Maillart’s version! Maybe a read for this autumn’s Central Asia Overland trip…..
Amazon.co.uk link: News from Tartary – Peter Fleming