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Summary

Catching all the fascination and humour of travel in out-of-the-way places, One's Company is Peter Fleming's account of his journey through Russia and Manchuria to China when he was Special Correspondent to The Times in the 1930s. Fleming spent seven months with the "object of investigating the Communist situation in South China" at a time when, as far as he knew, "no previous journey had been made to the anti-communist front by a foreigner", and on its publication in 1934, One's Company won widespread critical acclaim. Packed with classic incidents - brake-failure on the Trans-Siberian Express, the Eton Boating Song singing lesson in Manchuria - One's Company was among the forerunners of a whole new approach to travel writing.

Public Domain (P)2012 Audible Ltd

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Profile Image for M M Gower
  • M M Gower
  • 29-07-21

Information, wit and analysis

What an interesting person Peter Fleming must have been — productive, thoughtful, self-deprecating and so persuasive. This is a journalist’s assessment of the political and social situations in Russia and in China in the early 1930’s, when Chinese Nationalists and Communists were struggling against each other and against the Japanese, in Mongolia and elsewhere. Of course, it is dated. Of course, Fleming is sometimes mistaken in his predictions — but he lays bare the reasons that his predictions may not come to pass. It is amazing to me that, as a traveler, he was able to understand so much about what was happening. His arguments about Chinese individualism (really family and small community loyalty) are insightful, and I wonder how much of this mindset survives under Communist ideological constraints. The portrait of Chiang Kai Shek is masterful. The book is more about China, and the Russian influence on China, than on Russia itself, but Fleming seems to have been unaware of the creasing horrors in Stalinist Russia. Altogether, this is an amazing account of a journey to the East undertaken by an education and self aware man of the early 20th century, formed by imperialist culture but honestly curious about the rest of the world and able to listen. Protestant missionaries in China, by the way, come off very poorly in Fleming’s experience - the Catholics seem to have been better ambassadors for their God to him and to their Chinese adherents.

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  • Cliff Beattie
  • 25-06-21

one's Company by Peter Fleming

A wonderful satire on how more advanced civilizations may have more problems than simpler ones.