Fred Khumalo Columnist

When I returned from my first trip to China in December, I vowed to throw myself into the great literary and historical texts of that vast country. To my shock and chagrin, last week I realised that I haven’t lived up to that promise. Of the many books I’d read over the year, only five were by Chinese writers or about China. To atone, I decided I should start with some light Chinese reading. The logical place to start was a historical novel about the Long March. I am partial to historical fiction mainly because, while giving me the erudition of thorough research — furnishing me with the dates, the names of battles fought and the generals in charge — it also keeps me entertained. Not ignoring the lives of ordinary people, it tells me how they dressed, how they spoke, how wars or other historical events touched their lives and, most importantly, what they ate. On Friday I switched off my phone, sat in my den and started reading Peking, a historical novel by Anthony Grey. I got so imme...

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