- Hardcover: 624 pages
- Publisher: OUP Oxford; First Edition edition (28 Oct. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199541930
- ISBN-13: 978-0199541935
- Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 3.8 x 16.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 847,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Passport to Peking: A Very British Mission to Mao's China Hardcover – 28 Oct 2010
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A book bulging with anecdotes and digressions (Neal Ascherson, London Review of Books)
Highly enjoyable...thoughtful and closely researched...His portrait of Spencer in particular is a work of comic genius (Dominic Sandbrook, The New Republic)
A brilliant feat of research...The result is a tour de force, erudite, funny, endlessly revealing and generously illustrated. (John Keay, Times Literary Supplement)
...this is a fascinating recreation of a moment in British political and cultural history. (History Today)
Acerbic and fair-minded. . . social comedy with a rueful edge (Wall Street Journal)
Entertaining. (The New Yorker)
Wright weaves this complex narrative with aplomb. (New Scientist)
Patrick Wright's history of their eccentric trips is learned and charming. (Boyd Tonkin, The Independent)
In his astonishing last half-dozen books, he has established himself not only as the champion ironist and caustic critic of that weird historical compound,'Englishness', but also a social historian of an inimitable kind. (Fred Inglis, The Independent)
As ever with Wright's work the sheer density of thought, allusion and fact is staggering - but what is more amazing is the deftness with which he spins from this a gossamer and entrancing narrative thread. (Will Self)
An impressive and unusual book... that succeeds by presenting a wonderful cast of characters set in a dimly remembered period... a depth and resonance that make it more than the sum of its considerable parts. (Jonathan Fenby, Literary Review)
About the Author
Patrick Wright is a writer and broadcaster with an interest in the cultural dimensions of modern life. He is the author of a number of highly acclaimed best-selling history books, including The Village that Died for England, Tank (described by Simon Schama as 'a tour de force'), and Iron Curtain, which John le Carre described as 'a work of wit, style and waggish erudition.' He has written for many magazines and newspapers, including the London Review of Books, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Independent, and the Observer, and has made numerous documentaries on cultural themes for both BBC Radio 3 and 4. His television work includes The River, a four-part BBC2 series on the Thames. He is also a Professor at the Institute for Cultural Analysis at Nottingham Trent University, and a fellow of the London Consortium.
Top Customer Reviews
What he is so good at is pulling together the strands of absolutely solidly researched history, ( with exhaustive footnotes ), political analysis and human interest, all in a very readable and flowing style.
The continuing theme is that the visitors saw what they expected to see. ( We all do ). The twist and contrast is the the visit of the Cultural Delegation, where the artists saw things from a different perspective.
The book includes many of their drawings.
I visited China, ( and the USSR ), a great deal in the 1970s - 20 years later. However the atmosphere of the place feels just right. ( Those 20 years of course had the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution - but that's another story ! )
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
The details of how the Chinese side presented the carefully crafted and fairly artificial image of new China to the Western visitors makes for interesting reading and has much in common with what a Western tourist in North Korea today would experience than that of a contemporary tourist in the PRC, notwithstanding the artificial shut down of Hangzhou last week (at time of writing). China nowadays is of course far more open, but the uncompromising insistence on the official version of reality and the brazenly self-interested interpretation of historical and political events remains.
The details of the the travel arrangements are, on their own, interesting stories - particularly the stop off in Russia. There are certainly familiar echoes for those of us who have travelled around Asia.
One minor criticism would be that I believe the author falls in to the common trap of assuming that Zhou Enlai was somehow a great guy. There have been plenty of charming psychopaths in history and being the human face of Maoism doesn’t require very much humanity at all! I would argue that Zhou was merely more conscious of the fact that the various crimes of Mao and the Communists would inevitably come out at some point and he quietly made sure he was politically well positioned to look like a break on the madness instead of a complicit part of it when the inevitable critical historical scrutiny comes to the Mainland.
Patrick Wright's book tells the story, from a British perspective, of a number of these left-leaning, if not communist, individuals (mostly men but a few women) who made their way in the early 1950s to Mao's new China.
While the central focus of the book is on the PRC, there is a good amount of interesting material on travel through Russia while en route to the Middle Kingdom.
One comes away from reading this book with a reminder of how hard it was to travel long distances in the days before commercial jets; how isolated China was from the Western world; how the success of group travel always comes down to individuals; how truth fell victim to the needs of the new rulers; and how innocent were these good people of the terror that Mao would soon unleash on his country's people. I most appreciated the cultural and political comparisons made by the author related to art and artists, specifically telling insights involving Paul Hogarth and Stanley Spencer.