9 September 2010

Forgotten Book: MANDARIN by Robert Elegant

This week's contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books reflects a time when I taught Asian history in secondary school.
Last year I wrote about M.M. Kaye whose works I absorbed in about the same period. I was particularly interested in China, Japan, and India.

Robert Elegant's books gave me a window into the period of the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion, and the impact of the "dividing of the melon", European Imperialism on Chinese control of their own affairs.

Published in 1983, MANDARIN was the third and final book in Elegant's Dynasty series.

1. Dynasty (1976)
2. Manchu (1979)
3. Mandarin (1983)

From The New York Times 1983
MANDARIN traces the lives of two Shanghai silk merchants and their families during the Taiping Rebellion of the mid-19th century . Saul Haleevie, one of these merchants, is an Orthodox Jew living in China, while his partner, Aisek Lee, is a Chinese who has been born into Judaism. At the beginning of the book, Aisek Lee is arrested and charged with ''abomination.'' He is accused of having run his business in such an enterprising or adventurous way as to call his senile mother to despair and eventually hang herself. Saul's attempt, together with Aisek's sons Aaron and David, to get Aisek out of prison by bribing government officials is one of the themes of the book. There is quite a bit of royal intrigue, too, as the concubine Yenehala manipulates the corrupt emperor into having his first child by her. His majesty is a conversationalist. ''Have some wine, and try these plums,'' he says to Yenehala. ''The clotted cream is delicious.''

From Wikipedia
Robert Sampson Elegant (born March 7, 1928) is a British-American author and journalist born in New York City. He spent many years in Asia as a journalist. The Asian settings of all but one of his novels reflect that experience. He covered both the Korean and the Vietnam Wars, as well as four or five lesser conflicts.
He has been a Pulitzer Prize traveling fellow (1951) and was given an Edgar Allan Poe Special Award in 1967 for A Kind of Treason, among the best first mystery thriller novels of the preceding year. He has, among other awards, been given four prizes for best interpretation of foreign news by the Overseas Press Club of America. He was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize in international reporting three times.


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Oh, this is interesting! One thing I love about this Forgotten Book series is finding authors and series I haven't met before. I'm going to have to see if I can find this one.

Anonymous said...

I remember this author. I know I read DYNASTY. I can't recall whether I read the other two. I too went through a period of being very interested in China. I think I was searching out other books after I read NOBLE HOUSE by Clavell.

Thanks for the memories, Kerrie!

Kerrie said...

James Clavell was the 3rd author I read avidly Kay

George said...

I've seen these books at Library Sales for years. Next time, I'll buy them.

Todd Mason said...

He certainly has the name for an artist. I take it he's rather more sophisticated in his analysis than, say, James Clavell...

Todd Mason said...

Oops...didn't read the comments, first! So, very comparable to Clavell?


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