Colin Thubron (PDF ebook) Behind the Wall – hideawaystudio.co.uk

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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

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Behind the Wall

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. 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 have a knack for discovering the most unpleasant people in whatever country China in this case he s touringHe is in Nanjing I think on Page 101 when he makes an ill fated call on the family of an acuaintance from Beijing Here s a glimpse of what happens I had always conceived of the Chinese family as a stereotype of unity and closeness But soon I realised that the war between mother in law and daughter in law was being waged in iron silences Compared to the old couple conservative parents Hua was the daughter of a once discredited bourgeoisie voluble raw overbearingThe Suzhou girl was unorthodox too She could scarcely bear the sight of her own three year old son an electric urchin with a sprout of chimney brush hair The cliches of family unity were dropping dead about me a mother who hated her son a niece who despised her aunt a domineering daughter in lawIt gets worse After a dreadful meal he agrees to go to the home of Hua the daughter in law He spends the night there in the company of three females Hua her 88 year old mother and a 13 year old named Yulong who isn t directly related to either of the others All three appear to be hitting on him in one way or another The mother is the most likable of the three but that s not saying much I don t like living here the old woman said Yulong is always weeping and complaining I hate her The people she hated were many Her eldest daughter had divorced and this had rankled for years It was proof that the world was rotting Such things weren t done by my generation That man still comes to visit me at the New Year Festival I don t know why She stared bitterly at the window I hate himAnother recurrent theme in Thubron books is that sooner or later someone asks him why he isn t married This is refreshing for me because in the polite culture in which I live no one asks that uestion but they are thinking it Hence it s good to know that even a great writer like Thubron has a tough time with the uestion This is from Page 242 She began feeling sorry for me She was boiling noodles on a little stove Why aren t you marriedI had not the English let alone the Mandarinto answer thisThe worst thing I can say about Behind the Wall is that it was written in 1987 Given the enormous rate of change in China the book is unavoidably dated if you re reading it now At least I hope it is China doesn t come across as an inviting placeOn the other hand the Cultural Revolution was still a somewhat fresh memory when Thubron was traveling for this book I never realized before reading this how horrible the Cultural Revolution really was It was unimaginably horribleThubron s travel books are unimaginably good Reading them is a delight from cover to cover

Colin Thubron Ì 3 summary

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. 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 not that I didn t like the book It is excellent really Thubron is a very observant outsider and he is very knowledgable about China and its recent and ancient history He reports on observed details that I know I would have missed if I had been in his place And his writing is superb It s just that without a continuing story it was easy to put this one down when something plot driven came along and caught my interest But everytime I d pick this one up again I would be amazed at how good it isI kept looking for something placing Thubron s China trip in a particular year but I could not find it It is sometime in the middle part of the 1980 s the copyright is 1987 so probably shortly before then Thubron travels all over China starting in the Northeast then he travels South down the coast to Hong Kong and winds his way through the interior of the country to the far Northwest where the Great Wall ends There is a map showing his route at the front of the book which I went back to freuently He travels by train mostly sometimes a bus He meets locals and other travelers along the way he speaks Chinese and some locals speak English He is primarily interested in the people the religious sites the natural beauty and the effects of the Cultural Revolution and other major historical and political events I read another of his books a few years ago To A Mountain in Tibet which I enjoyed and led me to pick this book up at a library sale I have another of his which I also got at a library sale but I think I ll try to read it straight through I expect that I will get out of it that way


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

  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 not that I didn't like the book It is excellent really Thubron is a very observant outsider and he is very knowledgable ab

  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' Ch

  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 Colin Thubron possibly write about China and the Chinese that was still relevant today? But

  7. says:

    I was completely and utterly taken in by this book From he first little annecdote that had me laughing aloud on the trainway to school to the end that turned me into a one time philosopher Colin Thubron goes to

  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 have a knack for discovering the most unpleasant people in whatever country China in this case he's touringHe is in Nanjing I think on Page 101 when he makes an ill fated call on th

  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 desperately poor country still putting itself back together after the disaster

  10. says:

    A fascinating and beautifully written account of a journey around China as it recovers from Chairman Mao’s policies the C