Earnshaw Books, an independent publisher specializing in China matters, has recently issued two books featuring westerners sojourning in China over a period of a century and a half. Frances Wood, a respected scholar of Chinese history, presents the account of Aeneas Anderson, who served as a valet to Lord Macartney when the latter led an embassy to the court of the Qianlong emperor (1792) and Graham Earnshaw introduces a book of photographs taken by Isabella Bird on her travels through China in 1898.
British writer EH Carr in his classic text on international relations, The Twenty Years’ Crisis: 1919 to 1939, argues that ideas of peace and cooperation between nations cannot stand up to the realities of international instability and competition. In Carr’s time the League of Nations was ineffectual in preventing a return to war in Europe. In Southeast Asia After the Cold War, Ang Cheng Guan using Carr as inspiration looks at ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), an intergovernmental organization caught between China and the old, creaking superpower, the USA. Can ASEAN with the help of diplomacy and trade deals strike a balance between the two powers in the region or is military action inevitable?
Some books are next to impossible to review. Silk Roads is one: encyclopedic in scope and structure, made up of several dozen short essays by almost as many different authors, each lavishly illustrated with indescribable photos of objects and places.
As Amaryllis Fox’s memoir opens, she is walking through the back alleys of Karachi when she senses a man following her. What she doesn’t write then is that she has an infant daughter back home in Shanghai, cared for by her CIA undercover agent husband. Fox is also an undercover CIA agent but one who doesn’t travel on diplomatic passports or enjoy the protection or cover of embassies and consulates. These agents operate “in the field” as aid workers or businessman without any hint of government connection. In Fox’s case, her cover is a dealer in Asian, Middle Eastern, and African art.
Former Monty Python’s star Michael Palin aims with North Korean Journal to do for Pyongyang what The Life of Brian did for the New Testament. He almost succeeds.
The great Swiss travel writer Nicolas Bouvier began his career in 1963 with L’Usage du Monde, an account of a journey from Geneva to the Khyber Pass. Published in English as The Way of the World, the book earned him cult status amongst travel-writing aficionados, its distinctive sensibility and supremely elegant prose elevating it well above the myriad other 20th-century travel books featuring well-heeled young Europeans traversing sections of the old Silk Road.
John Oliver has been blamed, among other things, for helping Donald Trump win the 2016 US Presidential race. Rather than dealing with the rise of right-wing populism, liberals like Oliver chose to deride, ridicule and dismiss. Worldwide, liberals are seen as elitists and out of sync with the problems of the common man. In her book Reading India Now: Contemporary Formations in Literature and Popular Culture, Ulka Anjaria approaches the issue through the examples of literature and popular culture produced in India since 2000.