Shangri-La on the Popular Front : ‘China’, the Global Left, and Auden and Isherwood’s Journey to a War

Julia CHAN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This article examines W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood’s co-authored travelogue, Journey to a War (1939), as a product of the interwar global left culture, exemplified by the Popular Front campaign that spanned Europe and Asia (1936–1939). Set out to observe and report on the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), a less popular but more exotic alternative to the contemporaneous Spanish Civil War, the two writers found themselves caught in the impossible task of reconciling the ravages of war with images of Shangri-La that mediated Popular Front discourses on wartime China. Nonetheless, Auden and Isherwood’s difficult negotiations with Orientalist discourses also made the text a generative site for translations, exchanges and appropriations. This essay offers an account of the travelogue’s composition and contemporary reception in China, how it became a composite, mobile text.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-318
Number of pages22
JournalModernist Cultures
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Edinburgh University Press.


  • communism
  • Orientalism
  • Sino-Japanese War
  • translation
  • travel writing


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