Night Train to Turkistan: Modern Adventures Along China's Ancient Silk Road

Stuart Stevens, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $13 (252p) ISBN 978-0-87113-190-4
Stevens, a freelance journalist, filmmaker and political consultant, retraces explorer and author Peter Fleming's legendary 1935 journey through Chinese Turkistan from capital Beijing to remote, unpopulated Kashgar. Stevens was accompanied by three American friends, including Mark Salzman, whose Iron and Silk records his own extensive travels in China. In this colorful, simple narrative, the difficulties outweigh the pleasures as the foursome continually battles the bureaucratic nightmare of government control in China, where purchasing train tickets requires the combined skills of a rug merchant, diplomat and spy. They ride crowded, unheated buses that move at a snail's pace along rough roads and planes that fly low, nearly skimming the ground. They find that their hotels do not have basic amenities like running water and working toilets. Stevens portrays China and the Chinese in a negative, surely controversial, light (""China was like an army, ugly and inefficient, joyless and numbingly monotonous, with little use for art or literature''). Yet, he is also moved by flashes of individualism and rebellion, and by kindness. An aura of romantic adventure buffers the hardships he describes, linking the author and his literary forefather whose footsteps he followed across China. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/10/1994
Release date: 01/01/1994
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