By Owen Lattimore


MR. LATTIMORE, one of the leading American authorities on Mongolia, has struck the happy mean between the ‘standard’ work that is sometimes dull and pedestrian in style and the light and entertaining ‘travel book’ that contains few and sometimes inaccurate facts. He contrives to impart a very considerable amount of information about Mongol folklore and customs, about the semifeudal nomadic structure of Mongol society, about the clash between the Chinese agriculturist and the Mongol herdsman and the exploitation of both by military chieftains, officials, landlords, and usurers, through the medium of a personal narrative of many journeys which he has made amid the tents of the Mongols and the hovels of the wretched Chinese settlers. There is an abundance ot drama, and the sense of ever-present dangers, in the author’s description of his wanderings in the remote marches of Mongolia, interspersed with such lighter touches as the efforts of a Mongol guide to keep up a high standard of hygiene by wiping dishes with a much-used headcloth and the story of an old Mongol dignitary who expressed regret that in the game of polo nothing was hit but the ball. Mr. Lattimore is perhaps too optimistic about the ultimate relaxation of a Soviet grip on Outer Mongolia which is perhaps tighter than he imagines; but in general his description of Mongol journeys is as informative as it is entertaining. And the entertainment value is very high indeed. W. H. C.