Colin Thubron (Pdf or epub) Behind the Wall

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Behind the Wall

Ical paradise near the Burmese border to the windswept wastes of the Gobi desert and the far end of the Great Wall What Thubron reveals is an astonishing divers. A travelogue around China in mid 80s I think annoyingly it doesn t specify There are some wonderfully poetic passages and plenty of prosaic and disjointed encounters He does at least speak Mandarin so was able to talk to real people relatively easily and seemed good at picking out interesting ones He covered much of the tourist trail albeit independently and even slept in Mao s old bed Mon patron voulait que je tape les seins nus paradise near the Burmese border to the windswept wastes of the Gobi desert and the far end of the Great Wall What Thubron reveals is an astonishing divers. A travelogue around China in mid 80s I think annoyingly it doesn t specify There are some wonderfully His Christmas Cowgirl (Wildflower Ranch poetic The Doctors Dating Bargain passages and The Collection plenty of Whispers of Feathers prosaic and disjointed encounters He does at least speak Mandarin so was able to talk to real Mount série tome 3 - L'empire du mal people relatively easily and seemed good at Entrepreneurial Vernacular picking out interesting ones He covered much of the tourist trail albeit independently and even slept in Mao s old bed

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Ity a land whose still unmeasured resources strain to meet an awesome demand and an ancient people still reeling from the devastation of the Cultural Revolution. I ve visited China on numerous occasions since the late 90s I ve watched the downtown areas of its cities morph into malls full of Chanel and Cartier and its inter city travel become a network of comfortable high speed rain links Colin Thubron travelled the length and breadth of China in the mid 80s He writes about another planet a desperately poor country still putting itself back together after the disaster of the Cultural Revolution train carriages flecked in spittle and cigarette ash but slowly painfully slowly beginning to open up to the world As others have observed here Thubron lets his subjects do most of the talking He asks ordinary people simple uestions about their lives and with a bit of poetic flourish tells their stories He s erudite but eager to engage with people and not beyond self deprecation as the towering lumbering foreigner who is inexplicably to the locals traveling alone One of the best books I ve read this year It left a deep impression on me of what China was like in the mid 80s and how much it s changed except for the smog

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Having learned Mandarin and travelling alone by foot bicycle and train Colin Thubron sets off on a 10000 mile journey from Beijing to Tibet starting from a trop. Brilliantly lovely engaging travel book about China before it became the roaring supercharged capitalist success story it is today Or has their capitalist dream gone bust too like ours It s hard to keep up these daysTwo anecdotes from me and a uote from Mr Thubron and we re done Now I don t often mention HF in these reviews on the grounds that she might object which is fair enough But she goes to China on university business regularly they have a campus in Ning Bo And once she told me that she had to go to a banuet a regular occurrence which is where you get given food you don t get a menu they just bring it to you And one of the dishes looked really weird and she didn t fancy it at all So she asked someone what it was and they said without batting an eye shredded deer s afterbirth There was a BBC news guy in China I heard on the radio a couple of years ago He said he was standing in the middle of the city of can t remember some place I never heard of where one third of the world s socks are manufacturedthat stuck with meMy favourite passage of this splendid book In Cantonese cooking nothing edible is sacred It reflects an old Chinese mercilessness towards their surroundings Every part of every animal pig stomach lynx breast whole bamboo rats and salamanders is consumed No Hindu cows or Muslim pigs escape into immunity by taboo It is the cuisine of the very poor driven to tortuous invention Most Chinese still eat only fourteen pounds of meat a year and many survive at little above subsistence level In the rowdy proletarian Wild Game Restaurant I interrogated the waitress for anything I could bear to eat But she incanted remorselessly from the menu Steamed Cat Braised Guinea Pig whole with Mashed Shrimps Grainy Dog Meat with Chilli and Scallion in Soya Sauce Shredded Cat Thick Soup Fried Grainy Mud puppy It s a fish she said with Olive Kernels Braised Python with Mushrooms If I wanted the Steamed Mountain Turtle she said I d have to wait an hour And Bear s Paws she regretted were off I had turned suddenly vegetarian I played for time by ordering python broth then glanced furtively round at the main courses on nearby tables hoping for escape but their occupants were bent over opaue stews where dappled fragments floated anonymously Around us the windows were glazed with pretty pictures of the animals concerned deer and cats wearing necklaces The waitress tried to be helpful What about Dog Meat Ready to be Cooked Earthen Pot over Charcoal Stove on Table I guessed in desperation It s too expensive Then I recommend Braised Wildcat Well I glanced at a domestic tabby suatting on the veranda beside me The waitress followed my gaze It s not that She tried to explain it It had nothing to do with real cats she said She wrote down the Chinese character for it which I couldn t read In the end hoping that it was a fancy name for something innocuous I heard myself say One braised wildcat please But the soup was a meal in itself It came in a python sized bowl and beneath its brown liuid lurked sediment of what appeared to be white chicken meat It tasted fishy The darker flecks might been skin I excused myself by reflecting that pythons although I had never known one were less endearing than lambs which I had eaten often The tabby had suirmed under my table It looked scrawny but dangerously edible In fact I had the impression that almost everything bere was in peril When somebody brought a warm flannel for my I was half prepared to munch it What else was nutritional I wondered The mosuitoes The curtains It occurred to me that should I fall from the fourth floor stair well The cat was still under my table when its braised compatriot arrived I lifted the lid to reveal a mahogany coloured flotsam of mushrooms and indistinguishable flesh A pair of fragile ribs floated accusingly on the surface I ate the mushrooms first with relief but even they were suffused by the dark gamey tang of whatever it was The meat was full of delicate friable bones I did not know if my faint nausea arose from the thing s richness or from my mind Several times my chopsticks hit rounded meat encircled fragments like miniature rolling pins which resembled legs I smuggled them to the cat under the table as a melancholy atonement You don t like your wildcat The waitress was peering into the bowl disappointed I m rather full I smiled feebly picking the python out of my teeth But she seemed to understand my diffidence and stooped down to sketch me an exonerating picture of the whatever it was She drew what looked like the illustration of an Edward lear Limerick a lugubrious four legged ellipse with a face either cross or upset But it was too late I had already eaten it And when later I showed an English speaking Cantonese the word she had written he translated it elephant cat or cat fox and shook his head nonplussedIs that not great


About the Author: Colin Thubron

Colin Thubron CBE FRSL is a Man Booker nominated British travel writer and novelistIn 2008 The Times ranked him 45th on their list of the 50 greatest postwar British writers He is a contributor to The New York Review of Books The Times The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times His books have been translated into than twenty languages Thubron was appointed a CBE in the 2007



10 thoughts on “Behind the Wall

  1. says:

    Brilliantly lovely engaging travel book about China before it became the roaring supercharged capitalist success story it is today Or has their capitalist dream gone bust too like ours? It's hard to keep up these daysTwo anecdotes from me and a uote from Mr Thubron and we're done Now I don't often mention HF in these reviews on the grounds that she might object which is fair enough But she goes to China on university business r

  2. says:

    Interesting but dated view of China as seen through the eyes of a British traveller in the 1980's Not only has the country changed enormously since then but also the way the West looks at China The condescension and borderline racist statements by the author would be strange and unacceptable in a contemporary book about China

  3. says:

    I've been reading this book on and off now and then over a long period I finally decided to just finish it It's no

  4. says:

    This is my favorite book about China and I've read uite a fewThubron is an endlessly sympathetic narrator as he travels through 'classical' China befriending people along the way and extracting their stories His masterly writing style is evident even in his chapter headings Where a lesser writer might have written To the Southwest or Guangxi and Yunnan Thubron writes In the Land of Peacocks which is infinitely vividI read this book years ag

  5. says:

    A travelogue around China in mid 80s I think annoyingly it doesn't specify There are some wonderfully poetic passages and plenty of prosaic and disjointed encounters He does at least speak Mandarin so was able to talk to real people relatively easily and seemed good at picking out interesting ones He covered much of the tourist trail albeit independently and even slept in Mao's old bed

  6. says:

    When I first opened this book I was afraid a 30 year old tome would perhaps not be worth the effort and time What could C

  7. says:

    I was completely and utterly taken in by this book From he first little annecdote that had me laughing aloud on

  8. says:

    One thing I've noticed in the four Colin Thubron books I've read so far all involving travel somewhere in Asia is that he seems to ha

  9. says:

    I've visited China on numerous occasions since the late 90s I've watched the downtown areas of its cities morph into malls full of Chanel and Cartier and its inter city travel become a network of comfortable high speed rain links Colin Thubron travelled the length and breadth of China in the mid 80s He writes about another planet a

  10. says:

    A fascinating and beautifully written account of a journey around China as it recovers from Chairman Mao’s policies the Cultural Revolution It is a book of poetry humanity and clear eyed observation

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