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Edgar Snow in Asia, 1928-1941

by Robert M. Farnsworth

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8262-1060-0
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

 However long the odds on such a conjunction, two biographies of Snow are scheduled for publication in June, Though S. Bernard Thomas's Season of High Adventure (see page 519) is more complete, Farnsworth is livelier and offers greater detailed about the geopolitical forces convulsing Asia during Snow's sojourn there. Farnsworth, professor emeritus of English at the University of Missouri, Kansas City (archival home to Snow's voluminous papers), provides no more particulars than absolutely necessary to get the venturesome midwesterner to the Orient. After reaching Shanghai at age 23 in 1928, Snow was able to support himself as a freelancer for Western newspapers and periodicals. An observant reporter and fiercely independent thinker who had no use for imperialism of any stripe, Snow was among the first to appreciate the scope of Japanese aggression in mainland China. No friend of the repressive Chiang Kai-shek regime, he sought and in 1936 (with help from Sun Yat-sen's widow) finally secured access to the Communist forces bottled up in the country's remote Northeast. His account of their revolution, Red Star Over China (1937), earned him considerable fame. There were other books (notably Battle for Asia, which not only probed the complexities of a united Communist/Nationalist front against the Japanese but also challenged readers to face the questions colonialism posed for democracy on the eve of Pearl Harbor) and projects (including personal involvement in the launching of industrial cooperatives) before Snow left the Middle Kingdom early in 1941. Thereafter, the Cold War, McCarthyism, and other factors caused the foreign correspondent's own star to fade, and Farnsworth accords the years after China only once-over-lightly attention. A resonant briefing on an American who bore eloquent witness to a turning point in Asian history. (12 illustrations, not seen)