East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The epitome of the English gentleman adventurer

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fleming… But what about the Challenge?
Well, the next Karavansara Challenge post goes online in 24 hours – hopefully1 – but in the meantime I’ve kept busy and up to date.

I’m currently reading – and enjoying quite a lot – Peter Fleming’s The Siege of Peking, originally published in 1959.

From the back cover of the well-thumbed Oxford 1986 edition I got myself used for a ridiculousy low price (thankfully):

On 20 June 1900 the foreign Legations at Peking were attacked by Boxers and Inmperial Chinese troops, with the equivocal support of the Empress Dowager, Tz’u Hsi. The ensuing Siege was to last for fifty-five days, and news of it shook the world.


Peter Fleming, the epitrome of the enlightened English gentleman adventurer and expolorer, travelled extensively in China and Central Asia as a corrspondent of The Times. His account of the events of the Siege, first published in 1959, is still unfailingly gripping.

And indeed it is.
fleming_gd01The book is filled with details, anecdotes, unrequired opinion, photographs and maps.
A wonder.
The Oxford in Asia edition reprints the original Rupert-Hart Davies edition, and throws in a nice foreword by David Bonavia. Being used, the pages have aged to a nice sepia-and-tobacco hue that makes this old paperback a beauty to behold.
And then there’s Fleming’s excellent prose – a writing style I have recently heard praised by science fiction author Neal Stephenson. Really, the last person I’d have imagined as a Peter Fleming fan.
But I agree with his assessment: Fleming is the sort of writer one should read to improve their prose. I sure do.

I’ll do a full post as soon as I’m able to finish this beauty – which goes to enrich my shelf of Chinese history.

And as I am at it, I might also re-watch for the umpteenth time the 1963 movie with Chuck Heston, David Niven and Ava Gardner.
And as we are at it… here’s the soundtrack suite…

  1. one of the drawbacks spending 12 hours a day writing is that when finally the leisure time comes, one would rather read than write blog posts, alas! 

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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