Peter Goullart's Forgotten Kingdom

Peter Goullart spent nine years in the all but forgotten, ancient Nakhi Kingdom of South West China.    He had a job entirely suited to his inquiring, gossipy temperament, for it was his mission to get to know all the local traders, merchants, inn-keepers and artisans so that he could report on which characters should be backed by a loan from the Co-Operative movement. In his company we get to hear about the the love affairs and the social rivalries of his neighbours, attend magnificent banquets, meet ancient dowagers and handsome warriors as well as catching the sound of the swiftly running mountain streams, the coarse ribaldry of the market ladies and the happy laughter emerging from out of the wineshops. For he remained fascinated by this complex society which believed simultaneously and sincerely in Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, in addition to their ancient religion of Animism and Shamanism.  

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Raban Revisited

When you think of Hampshire, you think of chalk streams and downland, military and naval enterprise, sailing and King Alfred, and Winchester Cathedral. But its literary heritage does not leap to mind. And yet Hampshire has played a surprisingly important role in nurturing the book. For the English novel reached its earliest flowering through the genius of Jane Austen, who was born and lived most of her life here. The world that she depicts in her exquisite novels, and her scintillating and detailed understanding of the human psyche, were born of the county and of her observation of her Hampshire neighbours and friends. But her Hampshire is only part of the story . . . 

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Viva Mexico by Charles Flandrau

Taken from Nicholas Shakespeare’s epilogue to Viva Mexico by Charles Flandrau

THE echoed sob of history. Coming to the final paragraph of Viva Mexico! one reader – a commuter from Pittsburgh – was stung to his own tears. “It was just so good that I had to have a good cry about it.” He was crying for pleasure, but the life of the author can also provoke a lachrymose response.

For most of it Charles Flandrau sought the same obscurity that his reputation has received since. If there was anything foppish about him, it was located in his fear of failure. “America’s most reprehensible loafer,” was the verdict of the New York Times when contemplating the modesty of Flandrau’s output. “His greatest book was the one he never wrote,” was the judgement of the Saint Paul Daily News. Flandrau’s view of himself was as stringent. “I always think that everything I have written is rotten.” Once, at New York’s Harvard Club – named after the university which had so unfit him for life – he was accosted by a tipsy alumni.

“Are you the Flandrau who wrote a lousy book?”

“I am a Flandrau who wrote five lousy books.”

About one of them, Viva Mexico!, he was wrong. Over eighty years on, despite numerous challenges, it remains where the critic Alexander Woollcott placed it when he applied the words “the best travel book written by an American”.

Charles Macomb Flandrau was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1871, in a house which became the bar of the Metropolitan Hotel. His father was a wealthy lawyer whose happiest eleven years had been spent as an Indian agent. In New Ulm’s Main Street, Colonel Flandrau situated a barrel of whisky laced with strychnine. He had marked it poison in several languages – except Dakotan. He meant the barrel for the Indians, but worrying that illiterate soldiers might get there first, he dumped it. He didn’t get on with his son.

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Through Writers’ Eyes: Hampshire

When you think of Hampshire, you think of chalk streams and downland, military and naval enterprise, sailing and King Alfred, and Winchester Cathedral. But its literary heritage does not leap to mind. And yet Hampshire has played a surprisingly important role in nurturing the book. For the English novel reached its earliest flowering through the genius of Jane Austen, who was born and lived most of her life here. The world that she depicts in her exquisite novels, and her scintillating and detailed understanding of the human psyche, were born of the county and of her observation of her Hampshire neighbours and friends. But her Hampshire is only part of the story . . . 

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Falling in Love with Books

Rose Baring and Barnaby Rogerson, the husband and wife team who run Eland were set identical questions by Georgia de Chamberet at The BookBlast® Diary - enjoy the answers!

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself. 
ROSE: No, but there were books around. I was quite a lonely child and books were a marvellous escape and provided adventure, friends and role models – Noel Streatfield, E. Nesbit, Johanna Spyri, L. L. Montgomery, Louisa M. Alcott and Lucy M. Boston. Just remembering makes me want to get back under the sheets and counterpane with a pile of them.
BARNABY: No, I can remember them both being rather concerned that I was reading “yet another book” instead of riding a pony, or playing with the dogs.  There were many books in the tiny, dark Tudor cottage in which I was brought up, but they were mostly all inherited.  They included a vast shelf of bound Punch magazines and a full set of Jorrocks. At a young age I used my pocket money to acquire the Ladybird history books but before the age of seven I had graduated to Jackdaws – fascinating folders of facsimile historic documents and maps.

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Travels in a Dervish Cloak

Spellbound by his grandmother’s Anglo-Indian heritage and the exuberant annual visits of her friend the Begum, Isambard Wilkinson became enthralled by Pakistan as an intrepid teenager, eventually working there as a foreign correspondent during the War on Terror. Seeking the land behind the headlines, Bard sets out to discover the essence of a country convulsed by Islamist violence. What of the old, mystical Pakistan has survived and what has been destroyed? We meet charismatic tribal chieftains making their last stand, hereditary saints blessing prostitutes, gangster bosses in violent slums and ecstatic Muslim pilgrims.

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A Square of Sky

During the Second World War Janina David was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto, hidden in a convent and raised by Catholic nuns. Recently, Janina was delighted to have succeeded in getting the nuns recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.  To commemorate this achievement, and to remind ourselves of the trauma of war and exile, we revisited this moving description of Janina’s return, alone, to her native town in Poland back in the early 1960s. Both of Janina’s parents were killed by the Nazis in the extermination camps.

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Travel Tips: Matthew Teller

Our late Spring travel tips are provided by Matthew Teller

Before my first trip to Antarctica, I got onto Twitter and was yapping about what gear to buy and how cold it might be, when the calmest piece of travel wisdom social media has ever seen came out of the blue at me. ‘Forget the cold, it’ll melt your heart'  . . . 

 

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Rebel in Pearls

It seemed apt that I should discover Juliet living in Russia when I was there. And apt that rather than living in Moscow like the vast majority of foreigners, she was living in Peredelkino, a retreat from the city where wooden dachas sheltered improbably but cosily, like mushrooms, in the all-encompassing forest. Like Churchill’s description of the country itself, she had always been to me something of ‘a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’ . . .
    

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Travel Tips: Steppes

Our Spring travel tips are provided by Nicholas Laing of Steppes Travel

Carry a small Polaroid camera (they are back in fashion). Handing over a photograph to the individual or family you want to photograph breaks the ice and usually results in smiles all round . . 

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An Irishman in Somalia

Can a book save one’s life? I used to think so when stationed in Mogadishu, avoiding thoughts of murder or suicide in that sunburnt madness only by immersing myself in Gerald Hanley’s Warriors (1971). Day after day I would throw myself on to my bed after another utterly fruitless, pointless day in the president’s office, and lie down, sweating beneath squadrons of flies and mosquitoes, and try to forget about it all.

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Travel Tips: John Gimlette

From John Gimlette, travel writer

Carry pictures of your family.  They are a great way of communicating your harmlessness, especially where language is an issue.  If you don’t have family, take pictures of the Royal family.  They are often a source of interest.

Pack a tin of sardines in countries where foodmight become tricky.  They are good for emergencies but just sufficiently unappetising that you won’t be tempted to eat them prematurely.

Take your old work shirts (those with frayed collars etc).  Cotton is great in all climates, and you can give them awayas you go.  I often come back with an empty suitcase!

If you think you’re in an unsafepart of town, avoid eye-contact, look as if you know where you’re going and do not display a guide book.

Try and avoid Western-style food in countries that have their own distinct cuisine.  It may not have been cooked properly, and may have been sitting around for ages.  Even in big hotels, the Indian variant of the full English Breakfast can be lethal.

Autumn News

This autumn we are adding two new Martha Gellhorn titles to the Eland list, The View from the Ground: Peacetime Dispatches, 1936–87 and The Face of War, 1937–85: War Reporting as a Commitment to Humanity, Life and Peace . . . 

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Summer News

Growing

Seven Years in Ceylon by Leonard Woolf reviewed in The Oldie magazine by Jan Morris

This fascinating book is a kind of parable. It opens when one October morning in 1904 Leonard Woolf, aged 24, sets sail from Tilbury for Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, thena middle-sized component of the British Empire. He is to become a member of the Ceylon Civil Service,  but he is  an improbable imperialist. Rather weedy-looking, he has lately come down from Trinity College,  Cambridge, where he has been an active member of the ultra-intellectual Apostles club. His luggage includes 90 volumes of Voltaire’s collected works, 1784 edition,  andhe is  never out of touch with the most prominent of the Apostles, Lytton Strachey.
 
Almost at once he is plunged into the ambience of imperialism, in the late heyday of the imperial idea: the true diligence of it, the latent prejudices, the red tape, the accountings, the rural courts, the horse-back journeys, the red tape, the petty disputes, the occasional floggings,  the demands of religions and feudalisms – together with the hockey,  squash, bridge, tennis,  gossipings and ambitions that were the consolations of the imperialists themselves. In Ceylon their own community was layered too, civil servants, army officers and planters one and all looking down upon the business people who were, after all, almost never members of The Club. As Kipling made clear, it was a very provincial sort of society,  and  a far, far  cry from Voltaire  and the Lytton Stracheys . . .

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Travel Tips: Rose Baring & Barnaby Rogerson

From Rose Baring and Barnaby Rogerson - our own husband and wife publishing team - a little less cerebral than the Woolfs, but possibly better travelled!

Last week we were asked to talk to some travel-hungry teenagers trying to escape thinking about revision who had started to dream of life after their exams were over in July.  We tried to remember what it was like . . .

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Spring News

Rupert Smith on Dilys Powell, author of THE VILLA ARIADNE

In January 1926 Elizabeth Dilys Powell married Humfry Payne, the brilliant young archaeologist whose pursuits and enthusiasm were to shape her early life. For the next ten years, until his death in 1936, she perched on the edge of his world, an interested observer, watching him and his colleagues with a mixture of admiration and bemusement, and coming to share his love of the landscape and the people of Greece . . .

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