Review – Amitav Ghosh’s “The Great Derangement – Climate Change and the Unthinkable”

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Environment, History, Review

Ghosh’s non-fiction, short book on climate change The Great Derangement is a departure from his forte – the great Asian historic novel. It has all the classic Ghosh hallmarks with meticulous research: instancing the use of coal, oil and gas in pre-colonial Burma and China; a keen understanding of science previously revealed in his novel The Calcutta Chromosome; and the virtuoso use of language we expect from him. The question the novel poses is why literature has been so perfunctory in its engagement with climate change. The evidence of clear-and-present danger from climate chaos has been with us for decades. […]

Hangzhou and Disruptive Technology

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Economics, History, Technology, Travel

Hangzhou is regarded by many Chinese people as the country’s most beautiful city. Its Xili (West Lake) is garlanded by stunning villas that have inspired artists and poets for centuries. Its delicate pagodas are filled with newlywed couples spooning over the water. The lake’s sub-divided waters are criss-crossed by delicate stone and wooden bridges and garrotted by a 3km grassy causeway. Around it but within the city’s boundaries are lovely restaurants, mountains, many excellent museums, rice fields and tea plantations all easily accessed by bus or bike. It’s always been famous within China and was even briefly capital during the […]

Vladivostok: the edge of the Belt and Road

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in History, Politics, Travel

Vladivostok is a city of 600,000 in the Far East of Siberia. Russia grabbed it opportunistically in 1860, back when the Qing Empire had been enfeebled by the Opium Wars and the vicious Taiping Rebellion that left 20 million dead. Russia quickly consolidated its grip expelling the Chinese and transferring people from Ukraine and Belorussia: first by land and ship and by rail once the Trans-Siberian Railway was built. Even though it’s only a stone’s (or perhaps a Scud missile’s) throw from North Korea, there’s no hint of the East in the local gene pool. Lonely Planet calls it San […]

Review of “Gweilo: A Memoir of a Hong Kong Childhood” – Martin Booth

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in History, Review

Just finished reading Martin Booth’s autobiographic book, the third of the Gweilo canon I’ve read these past few months. The three books couldn’t be more different. John Lanchester’s novel Fragrant Harbour covers the period between the end of the first world war and the turn of this century. He skilfully weaves three narrators and three narratives into an intergenerational saga.  James Clavell’s Taipan is a swashbuckling story of  an early Victorian privateer who outwits mandarins, pirates and business rivals to found an enduring business dynasty that loosely based on  the Jardine story. Gweilo is set in the two-year stretch of time between 1952 and […]