Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A collector’s moment of happiness

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high tartaryMaybe because it’s not raining (yet) the postman delivered this morning a pristine (but used nonetheless) copy of Owen Lattimore’s High Tartary, in the gorgeous Kodansha International/Kodansha Globe Edition from 1994. No water damage, no other visible problems.

And I am as happy as a kid on Christmas Morning.
First, because I love Owen Lattimore’s work, and he is one of the most observant of the travelers and explorers in China and Central Asia from the last century. And getting his books in my country is not exactly easy1.

51R6QVCHDRL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_Secondly, because Lattimore’s The Desert Road to Turkestan has been on my shelf for almost ten years, now, and I was eager to get the whole set – High Tartary being basically “volume two” of Lattimore’s book about his adventurous honeymoon.

AND I have a copy of Eleanor Holgate Lattimore’s Turkestan Reunion – which tells her side of the story.

Turkestan-Reunion-9781568360539Now, Eleanor’s book I have in an ad hoc re-bound edition of the Kodansha original – bought for cheap at a library sale. The book clearly had some adventures of its own – it’s not exactly easy, breaking the spine of one of those Kodansha books, and to require such a radical cover and binding transplant, the volume had to be pretty crippled.

So, all in all, a lot of stuff to read – or re-read, maybe thinking about a future Challenge…

And talking of Challenge, Lattimore’s two books were certainly part of Fleming’s and Maillart’s background and – more interestingly – Lattimore praised Fleming’s News from Tartary for its wit and keen observation… but not for its politics (that “do not make sense”).

[Fleming] passes for an easy-going amateur, is in fact an inspired amateur whose quick appreciation, especially of people, and original turn of phrase, echoing P. G. Wodehouse in only a very distant and cultured way, have created a unique kind of travel book.

PS – I’ve also acquired a nice stack of New Pulp books, so expect some quick-and-dirty reviews in the next days. So much to read, so little time to do it!


  1. they were published in the 50s, and often reprinted, until a change in the direction of the Italian publishers caused them to be deleted from the catalog, together with about 10.000 other titles about history and politics of the East. 
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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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