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Letters Back to Ancient China (1983)

by Herbert Rosendorfer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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337562,962 (3.94)3
A 10th-century Chinese mandarin travels forward in time, and writes letters home reporting on the strange land of 'Zha-ma-ni' in which he is surrounded by giants with big noses, and frightened by the iron carriages called 'mo-tao-kas'. We gradually realise that he is in present-day Munich, and the hapless voyager's encounters with modern life and love, make delightful reading."" Scotland on Sunday
Two million copies of the German edition have been sold which belies the claims that the Germans do not have a sense of humour and do not like satire.
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» See also 3 mentions

English (4)  German (1)  All languages (5)
Showing 4 of 4
Match found in the German National Library.
  glsottawa | Apr 4, 2018 |
(Note: this review is for the original German edition, not the English translation)

A light, quick read, which I found a pleasant change of pace from the other German books I've been reading lately. Using the perspective of an outsider to criticize society is a well-established literary tradition, but the story manages to remain fresh. Part of the charm is the particular perspective of the narrator, a time-traveler from ancient China who mistakenly ends up in modern-day Munich, to his utter bewilderment. His experiences in the strange culture are told with a mixture of naivete and humor mixed with light irony.

By the end of the book, however, his attitude begins to get slightly tedious. He dislikes practically everything about this modern, Western world, finds the people barbarous and lacking any sense of morals or respect for custom and tradition. He finds precisely two things he likes: classical music and champagne, which he indulges in while enjoying the luxuries of the culture he despises. His close-mindedness and arrogance ultimately prevent him, the reader is inclined to suspect, from learning from the experience. And this is what keeps the book from being 'great' instead of merely good. At the end, asked by one of his friends to write about his experiences for the enlightenment of the local people, he declines, concluding that people would read his book and agree that he's absolutely correct, and then forget about it and go on with their lives. That reaction describes this book as well. It doesn't go beyond criticism to offer a glimpse of a meaningful alternative.

In short, worth reading, but I was hoping for something more, considering the following the book has gotten in Germany.
1 vote spiphany | Oct 8, 2010 |
Kao-Tai's letters of his time travelling from 10th century China to his stay in Munich of 1986 is vastly amusing, but requires a bit of knowledge of the basic pronunciations and syllable build-up of the Chinese language in order to figure out all of the names. I get better with every reading (at least 4 times so far). ( )
  bookswamp | Nov 7, 2009 |
Interesting story of a man from 10th Century China stranded in 1980's Munich. Interesting and well written, it would be better if there was a glossary of the names he uses for different personal names. Some I guessed but others were impossible, and would probably require knowledge of German. Interesting look at the mores and social problems in the 1980's which have continued to today. Written in letter form (I know there's a word for that but my brain isn't helping with the spelling) to a friend back in China, of his own time it is well worth a read even if you do spend several hours trying to work out what the names are. ( )
1 vote wyvernfriend | Oct 1, 2005 |
Showing 4 of 4
Summary (From the publisher):

Mrs Kei-kung is a thoroughly modern woman and she introduces Kao-tai, a 10th century Chinese mandarin marooned in modern day Munich by his time machine, to the joys of modern sex and champagne. However everything else he encounters is not to his taste.
In his letters back to his friend in the 10th century Middle Kingdom, he expresses his horror at the noise, stench, and filth of 20th century civilisation. For him the inventions and conveniences of modern technology are trifles compared with the pollution and lack of order in a society where women (who have mountainous breasts) presume to talk and think like men. Yet he eventually does find some comfort in the mo-to shang dong (champagne) of which he drinks great quantities and in the arms of Mrs Kei-kung.

Original title: Briefe in der chinesische Vergangenheit

added by x57 | editIBList.com,, Publisher
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Herbert Rosendorferprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mitchell, MikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piatti, CelestinoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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dtv (10541)
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To my old friend Herbert Th. Scherreiks.
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Treuer Freund Dji-gu. Die Zukunft ist ein Abgrund.
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A 10th-century Chinese mandarin travels forward in time, and writes letters home reporting on the strange land of 'Zha-ma-ni' in which he is surrounded by giants with big noses, and frightened by the iron carriages called 'mo-tao-kas'. We gradually realise that he is in present-day Munich, and the hapless voyager's encounters with modern life and love, make delightful reading."" Scotland on Sunday
Two million copies of the German edition have been sold which belies the claims that the Germans do not have a sense of humour and do not like satire.

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