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The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk

Cara Cina

Cara Cina - Goffredo Parise This is the sort of book about China which gets dust and damp on the Italian second hand bookstalls. And it's such a pity as Goffredo Parise was an excellent although semi-forgotten journalist with wondeful writing skills.

Parise visited China in the 1960s only for a few days, but was able to get more about this huge and elusive country in those ideologically driven days than great Italian foreign correspondents of the recent past (Ostellino, Biagi).

The book is concise but organized very well, pointing out a range of topics Parise managed to investigate on rather than trying to put them in the chronological frame of his visiting trip.
Chinese medicine, theatre and night life, factory work and salaries, psychology and Chinese catholicism, life in the countryside, women condition under socialism, history and politics this is a selection of what the author writes about here and always in a convincing way.

Parise visited (or rather was brought to) Bejing and Shanghai, Nanking and Hong Kong, stressing out the kindness, elegance and style of the Chinese people he met, but also expressing his own skepticism for the miracles of socialism he was told and his own distaste for the party hierarchies.
This is a honest, fair and open minded account of China which was a pleasure to read.

Ah, what this book could have been with some decent editing!
It's really a pain in the eyes seeing how the Longanesi guys treated "Cara Cina" back in 1968. The Chinese currency "yuan" was translated into "yen" (I hope no one at the Chinese Communist Party noticed this horrible Japanification), while the "Yin and Yang" became the "Inn and Yang". No better treatment was reserved to the "Big Ben" in London which is here miswritten "Big Bell".
Poor Goffredo Parise! He definitely deserves a new mispelling-free edition of this forgotten gem.