East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Where the unreal’s real

Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936[11]My friend Clare, over at the Scribblings blog, just published a post about Kipling’s poetry and the voice of objects.
And she says…

Whenever I read one of these poems, I can’t help thinking of those Japanese legends where an object takes on some sort of life by long association with and use by human beings… A concept I’ve always found highly poetic.

I was trying to put together some form of intelligent comment, and then I thought, what the heck, I’ll write a post for Karavansara.
And here we are – fast and loose.
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book feature

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Tracks in the Snowy Forest

41msnsIInOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’ll ramble a bit, if you don’t mind.
I’ve been looking for Tracks in the Snowy Forest for a while, now, without any luck.
I read a lot about it, summaries, criticism… but I still miss the real thing.
The book, written by Chinese author Qu Bo and published in 1957, was apparently published in English in 1962 – and never reprinted1. Alas, I can’t read Chinese.
The book – a thick affair over 500 pages long – is a historical novel. Or maybe not.
Based on true fact – to wit, the operations of a small unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army against warlords and bandit chieftains in North-Eastern China in 1946-1947 – it is nonetheless a novel, a work of fiction, and it was published ten years after the events. The author Qu Bo, took part in that PLA campaign, and the story is therefore based on his first-hand experiences.
Does it count as historical fiction?
Or is it something else – fictionalized autobiography?
Non-fiction novel?
I don’t know.

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Tiger Mountain, finally!

It took me almost one year to get my hands on a copy of Tsui Hark‘s The Taking of Tiger Mountain – and the long hunt was well worth it.
The 2014 movie is a great adventure flick, straddling the line between historical narrative and pulp fantasy.


I’ll have to write a lot about it – so expect a post or three in the next days.
In the meantime, the trailer…

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Ennui in the Gobi Desert

cover76765-mediumPierre Benoit is well known for his L’Atlantide, a lost world story that couples the classic venues of pulp adventure with the mood of post-war (First World War, that is) disillusionment.
L’Atlantide is probably the most literary descendants of H. Rider-Haggard‘s She.

The Gobi Desert was published twenty-two years after L’Atlantide, in 1941, and in part it follows the same basic plot.
Two men in the desert, looking from some elusive treasure, while competing for the attentions of a ravishingly beautiful woman.
In L’Atlantide the prized possession is Atlantis itself and the femme fatale is the Queen of Atlantis, in The Goby Desert it is a white tiger, the mythical felis alba, and the object of desire is Alzire, an exotic dancer1.

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