London, Faber, 1973.
Commissioned by their publishers to write a travel book, Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden traveled to China in 1938 to observe the Sino-Japanese War. The writers make only brief mentions of their interviews with Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek and Chou En-Lai, unaware of the crucial roles their subjects would play in the postwar world. But the errors and evils of 19th-Century European policy toward China are summarized in Isherwood's devastating account of the artificial splendor of the foreign enclave in Shanghai, separated by an unbridgeable social gap from the harsh realities of the occupied city.
Mr Isherwood writes a smooth and accurate kind of demotic language which is adequate for his needs; he never goes butterfly-hunting for a fine phrase. It is no fault of his technique that Journey to a War is rather flat; he is relating a flat experience, for he is far too individual an artist to be a satisfactory reporter. The essence of a journalist is enthusiasm; news must be something which excites him, not merely something he believes will excite someone else. Mr Isherwood - all honour to him for it -has no news sense... Mr Auden contributes some good photographs and some verses...His work is awkward and dull, but it is no fault of his that he has become a public bore.