June 20, 2005
News from Tartary

Three quotes from News from Tartary, which I think I'm going to enjoy very much:

I know nothing, and care less, about political theory; knavery, oppression and ineptitude, as perpetrated by governments, interest me only in their concrete manifestations, in their impact on mankind: not in their nebulous doctrinal origins. ... I say this because I know that to read a propagandist, a man with vested intellectual origins, is as dull as dining with a vegetarian.
We walked the lorries over a precarious bridge whose architecture seemed to be an affair of mud and mass-hypnotism.
The foreign engineers responsible for the construction of the Sian-Lanchow road had impressed on their Chinese subordinates the desirability of marking difficult or dangerous passages with the traffic signs current in Europe: such as an 'S' for a double bend. The Chinese, however, either ignorant of or impatient with the orthodox sign-vocabulary, declined on their noticeboards to commit themselves to the exact nature of the peril in wait for the motorist, and merely painted a bold and arresting exclamation mark. As we hurtled downard the recurrent '!' atoned for its inadequacy as a warning by its charming aptness as a comment.

I just wish I could have found an edition with the photos and maps of the original edition; I'll have to keep it in mind when browsing second-hand book stores.

Posted by Bill Stilwell at June 20, 2005 07:25 PM
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