“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

A Slight Deviation – World War One Home Front Books

Posted: August 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

A slight deviation as it’s the centenary of the First World War I ( Britain went to war on August 4 1914). thought I’d just offer up a list of books that deal with the home front – which interests me a bit more than the battlefields. Compared to World War Two home front literature, reminisces and novels are harder to come by, but the following were illuminating. Fear not – normal China resumed tomorrow…

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Guignol’s Band – Louis-Ferdinand Celine – Celine’s third novel, first published in 1944 but dealing with events taking place during the First World War, Guignol’s Band follows the narrator’s meanderings through London after he has been demobilized due to a war injury. The result is a frank, uncompromising, yet grotesquely funny portrayal of the English capital’s seedy underworld, peopled by prostitutes, pimps and schemers.

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The Pretty Lady - Arnold Bennett – ‘The Pretty Lady’ is considered to be one of Bennett’s most revealing and under-rated works. It is the story of a French prostitute, Christine, who has escaped from wartime Ostend, and set herself up in business in London. Though a refugee, she demands no pity; she is self-sufficient, practical and realistic. Christine is not a harpy preying on innocent soldiers, but a canny businesswoman, doing the best she can with the opportunities life has given her. Her main relationship is with G.J. Hoape, a wealthy man above the military age. Bennett in this novel presents a disturbing image of wartime society, fragmented, uneasy and divided. There are references to industrial unrest and to social injustices, and hints that the British press is less than frank about the war. A discussion on the controversies around the book here.

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The Emperor’s Tomb - Joseph Roth – The Emperor’s Tomb is a magically evocative, haunting elegy to the vanished world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and to the passing of time and the loss of youth and friends. Prophetic and regretful, intuitive and exact, Roth’s acclaimed novel is the tale of one man’s struggle to come to terms with the uncongenial society of post-First World War Vienna and the first intimations of Nazi barbarities.

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Zeppelin Nights – London in tjhe First World War – Jerry White – 11pm, Tuesday 4 August 1914: with the declaration of war London becomes one of the greatest killing machines in human history. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers pass through the capital on their way to the front; wounded men are brought back to be treated in London’s hospitals; and millions of shells are produced in its factories. The war changes London life for ever. Women escape the drudgery of domestic service to work as munitionettes. Full employment puts money into the pockets of the London poor for the first time. Self-appointed moral guardians seize the chance to clamp down on drink, frivolous entertainment and licentious behaviour. As the war drags on, gloom often descends on the capital. And at night London is plunged into darkness for fear of German bombers and Zeppelins that continue to raid the city. Yet despite daily casualty lists, food shortages and enemy bombing, Londoners are determined to get on with their lives and flock to cinemas and theatres, dance halls and shebeens, firmly resolved not to let Germans or puritans spoil their enjoyment. Peopled with patriots and pacifists, clergymen and thieves, bluestockings and prostitutes, Jerry White’s magnificent panorama reveals a struggling yet flourishing city.

 

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Ningbo’s Sacred Heart Church Gutted by Fire

Posted: August 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »

Fire wrought some terrible catastrophes last week – miles apart. Eastbourne Pier, a marvellous Victorian pier, was gutted by fire and is a tragedy to those of us who love piers. Also, and a bit more relevant to this blog, the Jiangbei Sacred Heart Church in Ningbo. Sadly the 142 year old church appears to be pretty much gutted with the interior completely lost. However, the impressive bell tower and spire as well as the church’s outbuildings have remained intact and the tower appears to still be solid and salvageable.

The Catholic Scared Heart (Sacre Coeur) Church was built in 1872 by French missionaries. As well as a Christian tradition it was used as a base by communists so had a level of protection. Like so many churches and religious institutions across China it was mindlessly damaged during the Cultural Revolution. The church was returned to the Catholic community in 1980.

Quite how the fire started in Ningbo remains a mystery – how the fire started in Eastbourne has been established – sparks and electrical problems in the disgustuing games machine arcade that was housed in what (and you could still see the structure’s interior clearly if you visited) had once been the lovely theatre/dance hall portion of the pier. Art, culture and dancing sadly gave way to slot machines, video games and grab a pack of fags machines along with a filthy burger bar!

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index1 Sacred Heart Church prior to the fire

U472P886T1D126540F12DT20140728171350on fire

1406539791Sadly gutted

 

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Charles Eisenberg, aka Shanghai Red

Posted: August 2nd, 2014 | No Comments »

Charlie Eisenberg was a US Navy sailor who passed through Shanghai in the early 1920s, liked it, stayed and opened a bar (which I’m afraid I don’t know the name or location of?? Some have suggested the Bund, but I suspect that’s not quite right. Any takers on that one?). Later, around 1927, Eisenberg, who’d taken on the moniker Shanghai Red, returned to San Pedro and opened a bar on the town’s rather insalubrious Beacon Street called Shanghai Red. He was an almost perfect bar owner for the tough, sailor ridden strip and was quite capable of throwing out anyone who caused trouble – as he is in this photo….Shanghai’s bar business required a certain toughness, San Pedro no less it seems…

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The Lost World of Ladakh – Early Photographic Journeys in Indian Himalaya

Posted: August 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

A lovely looking book of lost photos of Ladakh just published and worthy of mention….

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A superb collection of 150 black-and-white photographs of 1930s Ladakh, capturing its final days as a hub of trade routes between Tibet and Kashmir, India and Yarkand. These portraits of people, landscapes and Buddhist ceremonies taken by amateur photographer Rupert Wilmot, are notable for their careful composition, fine detail and engaging informality. They have been meticulously researched and captioned by Nicky Harman and Roger Bates, respectively, niece and nephew of Rupert Wilmot, and include maps, an introduction and a bibliography. Of considerable historical and ethnographic interest. Claude Rupert Trench Wilmot (1897-1961) was a British army officer stationed in India during the 1930s, and a talented amateur photographer. Nicky Harman translates Chinese literature, and was formerly a lecturer at Imperial College London. Roger Bates digitized the photographs. A retired engineer, he has many years of experience working in digital photography.
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Palgrave Pocket Consultants – myth-busting China’s numbers, risky business & new Chinese travelers

Posted: July 31st, 2014 | No Comments »

I happen to do be doing a bit of consulting on a new series of books from Palgrave called Pocket Consultants. My contribution has been to look at adding a few China-related titles to the list, so I thought I’d better plug them….

Palgrave Pocket Consultants is a new series of concise, market driven, technical guides which provide actionable solutions to specific, high-level business problems. Written for aspiring middle-to-senior managers working for start-ups, through to multinational corporations, Palgrave Pocket Consultants cover a range of key topics in modern business, including: Marketing, Branding and Advertising; Entrepreneurship and small business; HR and OB; Management and Strategy; Global Business; Business, Society and Culture and Innovation.

The series presents:
- Top-notch business authors: written in an accessible and concise way by leading experts who have first-hand experience of business and industry.
- Need-to-know knowledge: focused on the timeliest topics for the world of business and management, Palgrave Pocket Consultants solve problems that would otherwise drive a board or owner to employ a consultant.
- Accessible content: Palgrave Pocket Consultants are purpose built to provide clear, to-the-point guidance, available in print and digital and reasonably priced between £14.99-£19.99.
- Actionable solutions: the series will provide applicable guidance for middle-management to c-suite executives, business owners and entrepreneurs

Myth-Busting China’s Numbers – Matthew Crabbe

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China is the world’s biggest consumer story, but foreign businesses are still getting it wrong due to lack of knowledge and understanding.

Myth-Busting China’s Numbers provides a unique and insightful critique of China’s economic data, analysing what businesses need to be aware of when interpreting this data and why.

From GDP down to micro-markets, demographics and company financials, this book looks at the flaws, inaccuracies and manipulations of data from major statistical categories, providing guidance on how to spot and rectify these issues, and allowing businesses to better understand their market and reduce risk. Featuring case studies of businesses that have failed and succeeded based upon on their understanding of China’s data, this book is invaluable to anyone with business or investment plans in China.

Palgrave Pocket Consultants are concise, authoritative guides that provide actionable solutions to specific, high-level business problems that would otherwise drive you or your company to employ a consultant. Written for aspiring middle-to-senior managers working across business at any scale, they offer solutions to the most cutting-edge issues across modern business. Be your own expert and have the advice you need at your fingertips.

The New Chinese Traveler – Gary Bowerman

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Going beyond the scenes of the Chinese travel revolution, this book explains the emerging trends and developments of Chinese outbound travel, alongside the motivations, desires and expectations of Chinese leisure and business travelers. Featuring interviews with Chinese travelers, travel industry figures and travel journalists in different locations, global tourism boards, hoteliers, retail experts, marketing and branding consultants, the book helps business executives around the world to better understand the complexities and challenges of Chinese outbound travel, and create and deliver their own products and services that will meet the rapidly evolving and diversifying requirements of tech-savvy Chinese travelers.

Risky Business in China – Jeremy Gordon

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Risk is a major reason that companies fail in, or fail to enter, China. This unique book demonstrates how correctly-applied due diligence can not only reduce business risk in China, but also provide excellent business intelligence to support negotiations and business relationships. Based upon the author’s twenty years of consulting experience in China, this practical book is packed with real-world case studies of failures and successes, providing a valuable and detailed ‘road map’ to avoiding the most high-profile pitfalls of business in China.

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News From Tartary – A Few Covers

Posted: July 30th, 2014 | No Comments »

I realise that the new kindle edition of News from Tartary I posted about yesterday did not have one of the most exciting covers ever produced by international publishing. So here’s a selection of previous covers that accompanied Fleming’s classic travel account….starting with by far the best….

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Fleming’s News From Tartary – New Edition

Posted: July 29th, 2014 | No Comments »

Lovely to see a new e-book edition of Peter Fleming’s News from Tartary, one of the great China travelogues, now out.

For anyone who doesn’t know why they should read Fleming here’s a link to my appreciation of him for Audible from some time back…

41I1BPMERVL._The journey took seven months and covered about 3,500 miles. and Motivated largely by curiosity, he set out with his companion Ella Maillart across a China torn by civil war to journey through Xinjiang to British India. It had been eight years since anyone had crossed Xinjiang; in between those who had entered this inhospitable and politically volatile area–under the control of a warlord supported by Stalin’s Red Army–seldom left alive. Entering the province by a little known route and following the path of the Silk Road, they ended up in Kashgar before crossing the Pamirs to India. Beautifully written and superbly observed, this is not simply an account of a part of the world few of us will ever see, but also a marvellous insight into the last days of the Great Game, when Britain and Russia still faced each other across a Central Asia in a state of anarchy.

indexAnd Fleming, actually in Tartary….

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Eileen Chang’s Half a Lifelong Romance

Posted: July 28th, 2014 | No Comments »

Eileen Chang’s (Zhang Ailing) Half a Lifelong Romance is now available as a Penguin Modern Classic

 

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From one of twentieth-century China’s greatest writers and the author of Lust, Caution, this is an unforgettable story of a love affair set in 1930s Shanghai.

Manjing is a young worker in a Shanghai factory, where she meets Shujun, the son of wealthy merchants. Despite family complications, they fall in love and begin to dream of a shared life together – until circumstances force them apart. When they are reunited after a separation of many years, can they start their relationship again? Or is it destined to be the romance of only half a lifetime? This affectionate and captivating novel tells the moving story of an enduring love affair, and offers a fascinating window onto Chinese life in the first half of the twentieth century.

Eileen Chang was born in Shanghai in 1920. She studied literature at the University of Hong Kong but returned to Shanghai in 1941 during the Japanese occupation, where she established her reputation as a literary star. She moved to America in 1955 and died in Los Angeles in 1995.

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