Urbanography – “The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh”

The following book review is the first of a new series on Panethos which specifically discusses books written about cities, though not necessarily solely from a planning perspective.  The goal is to enlighten others  about the vast array of interesting literature about cities around the world and highlight those specific books that the reviewer has read and particularly enjoyed.

Future reviews will include books about cities as diverse as Mumbai (Bombay), Beijing (Peking), Stalingrad, Istanbul, and St. Petersburg (Leningrad) among many others. Hope everyone enjoys reading the reviews.

By the way, others are more than welcome to submit their book reviews about cities to the Urbanography series here on Panethos.

REVIEW #1: The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh by Chiang Yee

The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh is part of a series of books written by Chiang Yee while he was residing as a Chinese expatriate in Britain during World War II.  Mr. Yee was visiting the United Kingdom when the Japanese overran China, making him an unexpected refugee who was unable to return to his family or his homeland due to the political and military actions taking place half-way around the globe. I came across it in a gift shop at the Culloden Battlefield near Inverness, Scotland while visiting the country in 2009.

The book is the most  emotional  and deeply personal perspective of urban historical literature I have ever read. Chiang Yee writes about his days in Edinburgh, Scotland while separated from his family in occupied China during World War II. That factor in itself touches your heart even before you open the book. As one turns the pages, the reader immediately empathizes with his plight and his yearning to return home as his emotional pain palpitates directly from the pages.

Written to incorporate the writer’s beautiful hand-drawn sketches and lovely poetry, the book is a fascinating portrayal of how war can cause collateral emotional damage, even when you are nowhere near the front lines.

Yee explores most of the city’s neighborhoods and all of the famous sites Edinburgh has to offer. He not only describes them from his eastern  perspective, but also highlights the surprising number of similarities  between eastern and western cultures.

The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh is a reader’s treasure-trove, very enjoyable, poignant, and quite thought-provoking. In many ways I wish I had read it prior to visiting Edinburgh in 2009, because it so enlightened me about this marvelous city.  I will need to go back just to see some of the places Mr. Yee references.  I highly recommend this book, not only as an urban planner, but as a lover of history, poetry, art, and of superb writing. It is one of my all time favorites.

This entry was posted in architecture, art, book reviews, cities, culture, diversity, environment, land use, planning and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Urbanography – “The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh”

  1. Pingback: Urbanography – “The 900 Days; The Siege of Leningrad” | Panethos

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