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The Silent Traveller in Lakeland by Chiang…
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The Silent Traveller in Lakeland

by Chiang Yee

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Long ago I discovered the travel books of Chiang Yee, a Chinese-born writer who left China in the 1930s and over the next several decades published his observations of visits to various places in Europe and the Americas. Unlike the typical travel writer who is an adventurous go-getter, Chiang quietly observes and reflects in his writing, poetry, paintings, and calligraphy (hence, "Silent Traveller"). This is the first of his travel narratives based on a two-week visit to the English Lake District in 1936. He's more opinionated here than I recall in other books, comparing the Lake District scenery unfavorably to China. His writing style hasn't developed yet either, as this reads more like a daily journal than a composed travel narrative. But there are flashes of humor and warmth that are Chiang's trademarks, as well as disconcerting glimpses of the political situation in Europe and Asia at that time that would explode into the Second World War.
Favorite Passages:
"...I am a man of curious temperment who prefers on most occassions to be dumb. When I was obliged to talk I found my tongue grow curling and painful. None of my friends realised my predicament, for I made efforts to talk easily in case they would drop their friendship with me altogether. It is a selfish trait in my character which I try to master. Whenever I walk or travel I am generally silent; I like to observe the scenery closely, and sometimes I lose all consciousness of myself in it. At such times there is no room in my mind for the external trimmings of history or romance."

"My friend was surprised and a little shocked to see so many pieces of land enclosed and marked 'Private," protesting that in China we should never find the public forbidden a free employment of scenery. I acquiesced, and admitted that it seemed money could buy even Nature!"

"We reached the landing-stage at Bowness only to find a long queue of people waiting for the boat; it was at least a quarter of an hour before our turn came. In the meanwhile I watched these holiday-makers with great interest, hurrying, scurrying, everyone in haste and eagerness. I remind myself that never could such a scene be found in China; in the busy West it seems that even merry-making has to be done in haste nowadays!" ( )
  Othemts | Aug 1, 2016 |
Impressed and moved by Yee's elegant illustrations and writing in The Silent Traveller in Paris, I collected the rest of his Silent Traveller series. This is the first in the series, and although shorter than The Silent Traveller in Paris, this work is just as beautifully written and illustrated. This series goes beyond remarking about the scenery, as it comments on both Western European and Chinese society and culture.
1 vote RRaboin | Aug 31, 2010 |
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