previous chapter
Chapter Thirty-One Paris
next chapter

Chapter Thirty-One

Christmas 1972 was melancholy. John Carter Vincent had died just before Lattimore left Japan, and giving up the house in Virginia was traumatic. It was to have been his final residence. Everything he had taken to Leeds in 1963 and accumulated since then was now in Southdown; it all had to be reclassified: some furniture and books to Paris, other furniture and books into storage, some furniture to be left in the house. He sorted and packed during most of December, spent Christmas with David and family, then finished the packing.

In February 1973 Lattimore moved in to his flat on the rue Danton in Levallois Perret, a Paris suburb. The flat was sparsely furnished and had no telephone. Mornings he worked on scholarly materials until Fujiko came, then they discussed the day's agenda, had lunch, and wrote until dark. Afternoons he devoted largely to the "incredible number" of necessary letters. Evenings he spent reading in bed.[1]

His furniture and books arrived from the United States in early April. All was then "pandemonium." It took weeks to get bookcases installed and filled and housewares unpacked. Getting his materials organized in such small space was agonizing.[2]

During his first month in Paris Lattimore received another letter from Nyman/Bogolepov in Switzerland. This letter does not survive, nor does Lattimore's answer, which he said was noncommittal about Nyman's publishing ambition. Noncommittal Lattimore may have been, but Nyman took his answer as encouragement and wrote Lattimore again on April 10, 1973. This letter is still in Lattimore's files. (I have not tampered with Nyman's tortured English.)


Dear Professor:

It was a surprise of my life, I would say, to get your letter—and especially such a friendly one. I know that I had contributed to your ordeal by trial although this was far from being my intention or motive. Please believe me that I deeply regret this. Now when we both are not too far from leaving this world when cold war situation forces people to say and to act often in contradiction to their innermost feelings and intentions, I hope we may consider our relations in a more detached and philosophical mood and to try to repair what can be repaired. . . .

In my vain efforts to find a Western publisher for my critical evaluation of the Western policies toward my country—both before and after revolution, I met with several occasions when some dark hand intervened in order to prevent the publications of my memoirs in which, besides general critical attitude toward the Western politics and institutions, first of all of the CIA, I expose the crime committed in the West toward Soviet Russian exiles which otherwise than a genocide I cannot qualify. Only recently, one British publisher retracted from a written contract and met with a silence all my requests to give reasons. This may explain why I became so suspiceous toward vague offers. In my reply to your lawyer [Nyman had contacted Arnold and Porter, but the firm has no surviving record], while accepting with a grateful amazement your willingness to read my memoirs, I noted that I wish I could have a more formal promise to assist me with the publication—if the text would meet your endorsement.

I presume that whatever your own views, you would approach my critical attitude just as a human document that reflects the impressions of a modern Russian intellectual who—whatever the attitude of Soviet bureaucrats remains a loyal Soviet citizen.

The main question is however whether you might associate yourself somehow with my testimony about my "testimony" before the US Senate in which I had to say about you what the circumstances beyond my will forced me to say. You certainly noted that I refused to say what was demanded from me, namely that you were a Soviet agent—and I paid dearly for this refusal!

Briefly, I did this because there was no other way for me to intervene against the policies of the preventive war that was then in full preparation and of which the attitude toward the Maoist China had been a main component. In those times I was really scared and had no other choice in my plans to oppose the menace of a new war. As a former member of the CP and a high Soviet official I was barred from coming to the States as a DP [displaced person] immigrant. There was but one way to go to your country and to try to divert the furies of the war-mongering from the external adventure toward the home "traitors" from the liberal Establishment, to support the views of the Tarts and the Maccartys that enemy is not


outside but inside the USA; this was the more logical as the liberals of those days from the supporters of the Truman administration (Marschall and Acheson, Clark and Forrestal) were for an attack upon Soviet Russia, whereas Taft represented the views of isolationists with his idea of the Fortress America. Thus, it remained to me to follow the maxim of Machiavelli that one can serve his country con gloria e con ignomia. It was not easy for me to do. And also I was not a free man but a humble, defenceless DP already in the claws of the CIA, as all other Soviet prisoners of the West whom were hypocrticlally called as those who "choosed freedom.". . .

This forced my participation in the attack upon you, this attack, as I was told openly by my exploiters in Washington, being directed merely through Lattimore against Truman, Acheson, Marshall. Indeed, their motives were quite different from mines; they wanted to come to power to continue the preparation of the preventive war. But I believed that Taft as president would stick merely to his conception of the Fortress and thus make me their bed fellow.

I believe you might understand now better my reasons. What trouble me however is the fact that the Nixon administration retrurned to the conception of the alliance with Mao and against the USSR. This may look as a vindication of your views, and makes my explanations more difficult for I do not want to associate you with the sinister plans of the US warmongers who try again the carrot while keeping the big stick behind their backs. In the whole, it is the single point on which we have to reach some understanding. The rest of the manuscript—dealing with my struggle against the enslavement of the CIA and revelations of the criminal attitudes in the West against the Soviet exiles, as well as my views of American policies, press, Congress e,t.c. certainly, if not fully shared, might well be accepted by you as my personal impressions.
Sincerely, yours I. Nyman.[3]

Incredible. Here was the confused but unconstrained confession of the witness who, judging by the SISS report, was regarded by McCarran as giving the most incriminating testimony against Lattimore. Nyman says nothing about having testified before the grand jury; we do not know whether he was called.

As Lattimore later recalled, he was by then convinced that Nyman was sincere and genuinely contrite, not fronting for anybody. But he was dearly a tortured soul. Lattimore did not respond to the letter immediately: "Sometime later I was going to Switzerland anyway, so I wrote him and said I was coming, would he make an appointment. The letter came back from the Swiss post office 'Addressee left for Sweden leaving no forwarding address,' which would very likely mean that he had gone to Sweden


on his—that he had got the Soviets to reaccept him." Perhaps. But we will never know.[4]

Lattimore went to Ulan Bator in early May 1973 for a congress on the role of nomadism in Central Asia. At the same time Britain's Granada Television wanted to do a documentary on Mongolia and needed Lattimore as a consultant to smooth the way with Mongol authorities. He made a quick trip to London to consult with Granada before he left for Ulan Bator on May 4.

Arriving in Ulan Bator, Lattimore had three hours of rest before going to

a reception by Shirendyb, the President of the Academy . . . as the only foreign member of the Academy, I always get a place of honour at his left hand. The reception was copiously irrigated. I had thought I was going to be able to ride past on the wagon, because Shirendyb, an old drinking companion, has been on the wagon. No luck. A man in Germany sent him a new German concoction that has "cleaned out his old blood vessels and opened new ones," so that he no longer has high blood pressure. So he has jumped off the wagon. I have descended only cautiously, one foot at a time, and playing the old Russian tricks of pretending to drink "bottoms up" when you only take a sip.[5]

The congress was delightful, with seventy participants from all over the world. Lattimore's paper, "Some Problems of Periodisation in Nomadic History," was well received. Two weeks of meetings, concerts, interviews, and visits to the countryside went by like a flash. On May 19, after a three-day stopover in Moscow, he was back in Paris.

His flat in Levallois Perret was now functional, and he again set to work on the mountain of letters and scholarly projects that had accumulated. But he could not settle down; that summer he went to England several times. He had things to do at Leeds and wanted to visit Rosemary Carruthers, the widow of British explorer Douglas Carruthers, who had helped Lattimore in 1929 when he came to England after his first book was written. Rosemary invited Lattimore to visit in Norfolk and look through her late husband's travel diaries and photographs. He and Rosemary got along well, and she invited him to return anytime he wanted to relax in the Norfolk countryside.

In November 1973 he flew to the United States. One of his missions was to establish a foundation to promote Mongol studies. With the Barrett bequest and money that had been left to Eleanor by a wealthy aunt, he now felt that he could establish a fund for scholarly purposes. Arnold


and Porter were still his attorneys, and over Thanksgiving he arranged the details with them.

Back to Paris in December for a month, then again to England. He now contemplated spending some time in Leeds and bought a small house there within walking distance of the university. He told Bill Rogers that it would be perfect should he or Fujiko want to spend a whole term there.[6]

By January 1974 Granada Television was ready to send one of its producers, Brian Moser, and Lattimore to Mongolia to begin talks with Montsame, the Mongolian news agency that would control arrangements for the documentary. Lattimore and Moser flew to Ulan Bator January 23.

Lattimore found that in his new capacity, as adviser to a commercial organization in Mongolia on business, the rules had changed. When he was in Mongolia as a scholar, the Academy provided a car; Granada had to rent one. "Brian and I, to show that we are not capitalists who are that rich, walk to whatever we can reach on foot." Negotiations with Montsame went slowly. The Mongols wanted Granada to pay a flat fee for the privilege of filming; Moser said they had never paid such a fee and couldn't now. Montsame replied that Japan Television had paid such a fee. Moser wouldn't budge. Several times it seemed as if negotiations had broken down completely, but each side left a loophole somewhere, and talks would resume.[8]

Lattimore vowed never to undertake another business engagement in Mongolia. Few of his academic friends came around to see him. He observed, "In these socialist countries your manner of earning a living—I suppose one could try to be witty and say your 'mode of production'—puts you in an identifiable compartment. From this there are channels up and down, to higher and lower compartments in the same hierarchy, but much less definite cross-channels.".[8] On this trip Lattimore was in the television compartment of the Mongolian bureaucracy, and many of his academic friends were wary of intruding.

Granada wanted to film the daily life of at least two families in a rural village, preferably in the Altai Mountains. Moser was to do a reconnaissance of several villages and work out in detail what they would film. When the scenario was agreeable to the village authorities, to Montsame, and to Granada, a camera crew would come out from London. It took several weeks for Montsame to agree to the details of Moser's reconnaissance trip; finally on February 6, 1974, Moser, Lattimore, and two Montsame men flew to the Altai and took a truck to a village collective called Biger.


The chairman of the collective was not happy with Granada's proposal. Filming the daily routine of his families would be an invasion of their privacy. He was willing to allow Granada to film what Moser called "a string of picture post cards," for which a week would be enough. Moser thought his project would take three to four weeks. Lattimore, as the only person involved who knew Mongol folkways as well as British practices, mediated as best he could. After five days satisfactory arrangements were tentatively reached, and the Granada party flew back to Ulan Bator.[9] Lattimore left in mid-February 1974 for Paris, Moser for London.

While Lattimore was in Mongolia, the Gang of Four in Peking, headed by Chiang Ch'ing, Mao's wife, stepped up their attack on Lin Piao and Confucius. This conflict had started in 1973; now, as Joseph Lelyveld of the New York Times put it, they were addressing their "sharpest polemics" to foreigners visiting China since "ping-pong diplomacy" began. In a pamphlet denouncing Confucius, "The scholar Owen Lattimore is castigated as 'an American reactionary historian' and 'an international spy' on the basis of a bland allusion to the Sage in one of his books. Professor Lattimore was one of the first Americans invited to return to China in the summer of 1971 by Premier Chou En-lai when relations between the two countries started to warm."[10]

Was Chou vulnerable as a "revisionist"? A dispatch from John Burns noted, "After several years of pragmatism and calm, China is returning to the more militant attitudes characteristic of the Cultural Revolution—and everyone from the elevator operator who is wearing his Mao badge again to the soldier outside the diplomatic compound who no longer returns a friendly smile is falling into step."[11]

Lattimore was disturbed. His standing in China was now less important to him than his ties with the Mongolian People's Republic, but he still wanted to maintain access to China. Gradually word filtered out to him after discreet inquiries: the Gang of Four would not prevail, and no one in China really thought he was an "international spy." So far as he was able to tell, the incident blew over with no lasting effects.

After short visits to Paris and Leeds, Lattimore arrived in Boston April 1, 1974, for the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies and a related session of the Mongolia Society. The CIA monitored this session, noting that Lattimore was failing in health, apparently unable to stand for more than a few minutes without support. The CIA also thought his popularity with Asian scholars had declined.[12]

For the rest of April 1974 and all of May, Lattimore was in constant motion. To England, to inspect his Leeds house and arrange for someone


to take care of the furniture he was shipping from Virginia. To Paris, where he was preparing to move to a new flat with a telephone. All the while, he was waiting for a call from Granada announcing departure for Ulan Bator with the film crew.[13]

From Paris, Lattimore made his first major probe for funds to extend the work of the Lattimore Institute of Mongolian Studies. This was a long letter on April 15 to Cyrus S. Eaton. Eaton had invited Lattimore to one of the Pugwash conferences, at which prominent Soviet bloc and Western scholars and businessmen discussed ways to moderate the cold war. Lattimore had then just started at Leeds and could not attend. Now Mongol studies were firmly established in the West; wouldn't Eaton like to underwrite them? Especially at Leeds, whose program the Mongols most admire? Eaton was not interested.[14]

Not until June 6 did the call come from Granada; the MPR was ready for filming. This trip to Mongolia was disillusioning. Lattimore was now exposed to Montsame bureaucrats who had been trained in the propaganda tradition of the Soviet Union. Only the best new buildings and machinery could be filmed; people in factories, farms, and stores must have their best clothes on; no spontaneous targets of opportunity could be filmed. Lattimore described one irritating incident in a diary-letter of July 7:

We were allowed to photograph the inside of a bookstore. When we got there, the shop was jammed with specially recruited people in their best, brightest, neatest clothes. There were so many you couldn't swing a camera, and some had to be asked to leave. When the film crew left, the "extras" left too. I stayed behind to buy books. The manager and personnel were terribly pleased about this. They even took me to their store-rooms at the back to make sure I didn't miss anything I might want. I got some interesting stuff, including an Art Buchwald collection translated into Mongol. (I'll send it to him.) By the time I got back into the front of the shop, it had filled again, this time with genuine customers. As in any bookstore in Mongolia, most of them were in their working clothes, some a bit shabby. Now the truth about Mongolia is that it is nearly 100% literate, people have a hunger for books, and there is a steady supply of books to satisfy the hunger. Which picture would do the most for Mongolia, abroad: the true picture of the people who really buy books, or the faked picture of dressed-up people pretending to buy books?[15]

Lattimore got a nice fee as consultant to the project, and more was to come during a winter filming session, but he swore he would never do it again.[16]


Filming was over by the first of July, and Lattimore resumed his scholarly role. Now he saw many of his old friends, dined at the embassies, attended National Day celebrations, made plans for the future with Academy people and the rector of the university. After talking to a Chinese diplomat at one of the parties, he was moved to rare sarcasm about the personality cult of the Great Helmsman: "It sometimes seems to me that Maoists believe that to make cows produce milk, and hens lay eggs, all you have to do is read the Little Red Book."[17]

After Mongolia, the rest of 1974 was constant movement: Denmark, London, Norfolk, Cambridge, Leeds, Paris, Languedoc, New York, Baltimore, Washington. By a considerable margin, Lattimore spent less time in Paris that year than elsewhere. The scholarly production of his partnership with Fujiko was hardly under way.[18]

In early January 1975 Lattimore was in London conferring with Granada; he then spent a relaxing weekend with Rosemary Carruthers in Norfolk. Even there work went with him. As he told David, he wrote a long review of The Horse in Fifty Thousand Years of Civilisation for the Times Literary Supplement , noting that the book was interesting, but weak on the importance of cavalry in Asia.[19]

After his visit with Rosemary, Lattimore and Brian Moser left for Mongolia, arriving January 22. Now he had to deal with Montsame again, and his adjectives this time were more colorful than those of the previous summer. He put some prime invective in a letter to David. By February 5 Montsame had cleared the winter shooting script and the Granada party was off to the Altai. At Biger, where the head man of the collective had previously been obstreperous, things were now friendly. Granada got the desired shots of schools, winter farm operations, family celebrations of the lunar new year, and a spectacular valley opening into the high mountains. The Granada expedition wound up with more cordiality than Lattimore had expected, and everybody got back to England by the end of February.[20]

Lattimore made the rounds of London, Norfolk, and Leeds, staying in his new Leeds house until mid-April. There he claimed to catch up on the "urgent" mail, but he still felt snowed under by all his obligations. He was lecturing some at Leeds and went to London several times to see rushes of the Granada film. He was himself in much of the footage:

a chastening experience for me to see and hear. God never designed me to be a television star.


So Granada's got under its wing, tra-la,

A most unattractive old thing, tra-la,
With a caricature of a face.

So for television, let Kenneth Clark have it.[21]

Lecturing was still his favorite activity. Fairbank had him at Harvard that spring. He worked into his presentation at the Harvard Faculty Club on May 28, 1975, many of the themes he had developed during his last five years of travel in Siberia and Mongolia but had not yet been able to turn into books. His title was "Asia from the Landward Side." The major thrust was that Western scholars had dealt with China almost exclusively by considering the interaction of Chinese and foreigners along the China coast. He sought to emphasize the significance to China of contact with people spreading eastward from the civilizations of the Middle East, bringing with them languages, trading practices, and agricultural systems that had strongly influenced China. Even Chinese historians tended to overlook the importance of cultural influences from the West; he found an "obsessive assumption" that all Central Asian cultures were heavily influenced by China, but not the other way around. He referred to the rich holdings of the library at Ulan-Ude, in the Buryat Soviet Socialist Republic, written by political exiles sent to Siberia by the czars but allowed to continue their intellectual life. Buryatia had irrigated agriculture very early, using methods derived from Turkic rather than Chinese models. Siberia was not a cultural desert, Central Asian peoples were not primitives, and Mongols were not marauding savages.[22]

Inevitably, in the question period Lattimore was grilled about Mongolia:

Herbert Levin asked Mr. Lattimore for his comments on contemporary thinking in Mongolia about relations with other countries. Mr. Lattimore made three points. First, the Mongols attribute their survival as a nation to their alliance with the Soviet Union. They greatly resent the allegation that they are a Soviet satellite. When Mr. Lattimore used that word to refer to Mongolia in the 1930's, he intended no pejorative meaning. Later the term became pejorative, making the Mongols upset. Even today, the idea is popular that Mongolia is squeezed between two giants. Since the Mongols are on one side, however, they do not feel squeezed.

Secondly, the Mongols are proud of their national independence. They take part in the United Nations and UNESCO, and bitterly resent the State Department attitude that the Soviet Union controls Mongolia.


Recently the Mongols published a book on "Mao and the Maoists." It criticizes the Chinese minority policies, but is restrained in comparison with the Chinese language used to describe the Mongols as "the new serfs of the new Tsars."

Finally, the Mongols understand China better than China understands Mongolia. The weak understand the strong.[23]

The rest of the summer of 1975 Lattimore spent visiting in the United States. Brown University awarded him an Ll.D. on June second, and in August he went to California, lecturing at Berkeley, where he had lunch with old friends Jack Service and Philip Lilienthal. He also attended the International Congress of the Historical Sciences in San Francisco. This was an important milestone: for the first time a delegation of Mongol scholars attended a conference in the United States. Feeling so deeply indebted for the hospitality shown him in Ulan Bator, Lattimore tried hard to see that the Mongols had an easy time of it. Bira and Natsagdorj, friends of his, and a younger historian, Isjants, made up the Mongol delegation. After the congress Lattimore accompanied the Mongols on a visit to Indiana University, Bloomington, the foremost center of Mongol studies in the United States. John Hangin, one of the two Mongols Lattimore had brought to Baltimore in 1948, was a professor at Indiana. Then the party went on to New York, where Lattimore put the Mongols in touch with various foundations he hoped would support cultural exchanges when the United States finally recognized the MPR.[24]

In late 1975 Lattimore seemed to control his urge to travel. He spent several months in Leeds, mostly working with Urgunge Onon on translations. The first three months of 1976 he stayed put in Paris, working with Fujiko on the Dilowa's memoirs and tape-recording recollections of his earlier life in China and the United States. He actually passed up an opportunity to work for American Express, helping them "get started doing business in Mongolia."[25]

Fujiko was working on the history of a Japanese adventurer-intelligence agent named Kodama, who had profited from contacts with high-ranking Mongols. As Lattimore heard about this kind of commerce, he reflected, "It makes me look back on my own life, crestfallen. I could have worked that racket. The timing would have been right, too. By the McCarthy era I would have been in the CIA and shielded as a target; by the time the investigations of the CIA came along, I would have been retired and living on a much fatter pension than I draw now."[26] What Lattimore did not add to this bit of persiflage, but should have, was "And I would have been miserable."


Even when Lattimore managed to stay in one place long enough to settle into a work routine, fame stood in the way of scholarly accomplishment. He wrote Gerard Piel February 20, 1976: "In the afternoon post, a letter from a learned man in England who wants to know about trypanosomiasis in camels. By the way he writes, he's a nice chap, so I'll have to answer, but how many hours of work will it mean?... I could do a full 8-hour day, just on letters, because too often answering a letter doesn't deal with the matter—It starts a correspondence. I can't even dictate on tape and send out for typing: too much slow spelling out of foreign words. Trypanosomiasis is bad enough, but when you get to the Mongol vocabulary of the disease . . ." (ellipses in original).[27]

Even when relatively stationary, Lattimore would put off working on his major projects because he was so incurably interested in everybody he met and spent much time drawing out their life histories. Asian caravan men, Chinese merchants and peasants, diplomats of all countries, fellow passengers on planes and trains, the concierge of his Paris apartment building, surgeons, nurses, and charwomen in a hospital—Lattimore "interviewed" them all. In the years after Eleanor's death, when he wrote his diary-letters to Bill Rogers or his son David, he filled more space with biographical vignettes than with all other subjects.

He attributed his acquaintance with so many languages to this curiosity about people: "My mother once—in my hearing—explained to a visitor: 'My husband and my son Richmond are both scholars. Owen isn't a scholar, but he travels a lot and wherever he goes he picks up a bit of the language, because he just can't bear not talking to people.'"[28] In some ways this talk contributed to his understanding of the contemporary world and its citizens; it also meant he was not concentrating on his major projects. Had Eleanor lived longer, there would have been fewer miniature biographies and more scholarly projects.

One of the major items on Lattimore's agenda was a translation into English of a Mongol herdsman's manual by Sambuu, one of the founders of the Mongolian People's Republic who befriended Choibalsan and rose m a high rank in the MPR hierarchy. Sambuu's book developed out of lectures on herdsmanship. It was colloquial yet scientific; Lattimore said he wanted to preserve its color and practicality. He told Gerard Piel, "As a Mongol said to me, when you read Sambuu, you can smell the scent of a cowdung fire. I want to keep that."[29] The publishing house affiliated with Piel's Scientific American was interested in the Sambuu translation. Lattimore worked at it for ten years, checking his translation with Mongol scholars, seeking the most authoritative version of each chapter from among


several editions of Sambuu, but ultimately bogging down in the attempt to get Linnaean names for the many flora mentioned in the book.

After congressional passage of the 1975 amendments to the Freedom of Information Act, Lattimore began to consider requesting his government Files. Arnold and Porter advised him against this project: "Too expensive and you won't get the juicy stuff."[30] Lattimore decided in April 1976 not to try.

Lattimore still spent time at Leeds, tutoring promising students in Mongol and consulting with the Department of Chinese Studies, for which he still felt some responsibility. And he began to spend vacation periods with Rosemary Carruthers in Norfolk, where he found cutting and splitting firewood beneficial for an ailing back. In 1976 he spent mid-April to mid-May in England. The rest of the year he was peripatetic: a month in Mongolia, a holiday in the south of France, a conference in Switzerland, another month in England, conferences in Bonn and Copenhagen.

January 14, 1977, was a big day. He wrote exultantly to Gerard Piel, enclosing the last chapters of the Sambuu translation: "Lift up your eyes unto the Lord with proper amazement."[31] He and Fujiko had also completed the Dilowa's memoirs and mailed them to Harrassowitz, the publisher, in Wiesbaden. Transliteration of Mongol was now governed by new rules, and when this book finally came out in 1982, "Dilowa Hutukhtu" had become "Diluv Khutagt."

Michigan State University lured Lattimore back to the United States in February 1977 to give the concluding talk at a conference on Soviet frontiers in Asia. He spent six weeks in America and discovered that he was once again salable to academic audiences: Colgate, Michigan, Illinois, Chicago, Pittsburgh. One outcome of these visits was a change in his attitude toward applying for his government files. No one remembers exactly how this decision came about, but on June 22, 1977, Bill Rogers wrote the FBI and the CIA requesting Lattimore's files under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act. The CIA was the first to reply, on June 30: "We are processing your request and will provide you with the results under the Privacy Act as soon as possible."[32] As soon as possible turned out to be exactly nine years later, July 21, 1986. The CIA never acknowledged Lattimore's claim under the Freedom of Information Act; they did recognize Privacy Act rights, but the restrictive provisions of that act enabled them to ignore the vast bulk of their Lattimore holdings. The FBI was much faster, and documents from the bureau began appearing within a year. Lattimore asked me to screen them for him, using what I needed


for articles about events in which he was involved and sending copies of salient items to him in Paris.

Lattimore did not get to Mongolia in 1977; it was the first year he had missed in a decade. He shuttled for the rest of the year between Paris, Leeds, Norfolk, and London, with side trips to Copenhagen, Oxford, and Switzerland. He wrote the Piels on April 11, "It's been hard to settle down. Travelling around and talking to people was easy; getting out books, references and typewriter is WORK."[33] He bemoaned the lack of a secretary but never got around to hiring one, which would have cut into his travel funds. However, he did get several chapters of an autobiography written. Lattimore spent the Christmas season of 1977 in Switzerland and visited Lois Snow (Edgar Snow had died in 1972), who had delightful tales about her recent visit to China.

By April 22, 1978, Lattimore was back in Mongolia. He wrote David that his main purpose in being there was to check his translation of Sambuu, which of course he did; but visiting old friends occupied more of his time. In his twenty-eight page diary-letter beginning April 25 and running through May 6, most of his minibiographies are of sons and daughters of Mongol scholars he had known for years. Career choices always fascinated Lattimore. He was especially pleased that Dalai was having a book translated into Russian, for which Dalai would get the Russian equivalent of Ph.D.[34]

From John Gibbens, the first Leeds student Lattimore had picked to study in Ulan Bator, Lattimore learned that the MPR was now troubled with juvenile delinquency. Gibbens said he "thinks it begins with preteen agers, coming home from school before either parent is home from work. Idle and bored, they get into gangs, vandalize, fight, steal." This was one of the dangers of rapid urbanization that Lattimore had not before considered. The Mongols were working hard to counter it; Gibbens was hoping to learn from them, since he felt that the Mongol methods were effective.[35]

Much of Lattimore's 1978 letter was about the ethnohistory of the Mongols, a subject he pursued now with even more enthusiasm than he had shown for "China in History." He was absolutely convinced that the Mongol conquests were not just a product of "bloody-mindedness" but a reaction to oppression by conquerors from older centers of civilization. He and Dalai discussed this hypothesis endlessly.

Lattimore had a long interview with the Izvestia correspondent for Mongolia and North Korea; as usual, he learned as much about the cor-


respondent as the correspondent did about him. During this interview Lattimore came up with a new formulation to explain Chiang Kai-shek's fall: "he had one foot in the past and one in the present (the war-time present) and tripped over himself because he couldn't get either foot into the future." The Izvestia man had interesting stories about the alienation of children of Siberian minorities, such as the Eskimos and Yakuts, who were put into boarding schools where they learned Russian and forgot their parents' tongue.

On May 1 Lattimore watched the May Day parade. There were no military units. It was the first such celebration Lattimore had seen where there were few all-Russian units; Russians were "mingled in with the Mongols." He left Ulan Bator on May 4, carrying with him to Paris yet another cache of scholarly materials and another storehouse of poignant memories.

In Paris he found the first gleanings from his FBI file, the papers showing that the bureau had begun full-scale surveillance of him after Bar-mine's accusations in 1949. This discovery stimulated another effort on his autobiography, but he could not settle down to it for any length of time. And he had to finish a paper, "Marxism and Nationalism in Mongolia," for a December conference. He wrote Bill Rogers on August 21, 1978, "As you know, it was the McCarthy/McCarran accusations that principally aroused my interest in Marxism, but I have followed up the interest in only a desultory way, always with the feeling that it's too late in life to master all that . However, just a couple of days ago, having run out of elevated discourse in print like Time, Newsweek, New Statesman, Economist, I got off a shelf, for bedside reading, a volume of Marx-Engels correspondence that I must have acquired in the 1950s but had never read." Here Lattimore found a critique of Ricardo's theory of rent that fit very closely his own 1940 analysis of agricultural productivity in China. "Does that make me a marxiste gentilhomme?" he asked Rogers.

Several months in France and he was restless—so back to England. He spent most of his time with Rosemary Carruthers in Norfolk. By October 1978 he and Rosemary had decided to marry.[36] Her house in Norfolk was small, so they looked for a larger place. He would sell the house in Leeds, but moving to England from France would be expensive. Rutgers University invited him to teach there winter term 1979 at a good salary. He accepted the offer, hoping that Rosemary would come with him. She was reluctant. He stayed with her through the Christmas holidays then went to New York to stay with the Piels. He commuted from there to Rutgers.

The undergraduates he faced at Rutgers and the University of Pitts-


burgh during Rutgers' spring break were a quite different breed from the Asian specialists he had taught at Leeds. Lattimore took them in stride. At seventy-nine he realized the dangers of living in the past and took special pains to relate the turmoil of ancient Central Asia to the contemporary Middle East, Cambodia, Chile, and other trouble spots. One of the liabilities he saw coming from the McCarthy period was fear of anyone who could be termed controversial; this fear caused the hiring of only "safe" and hence second-rate public servants. These second-raters were now in control at the State Department and elsewhere in the bureaucracy. No wonder they did not understand what was really going on in Iran, Southeast Asia, and so on.[37] Undergraduates of 1979 could understand this criticism.

Shortly before Lattimore finished his tour in the United States, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, meeting in New York, invited him to attend a discussion of Asia. When it came his turn to speak, according to the UPI Reporter , "the meeting room became deathly still." He explained how he and others who knew the Chinese Communists were not tools of the Kremlin were vilified and persecuted in the 1950s. When someone asked him why no one would listen at the time, he replied, "Because it did not fit the conventional wisdom." The UPL Reporter noted that there was "the barest trace of bitterness in his words."[38]

In June 1979, when he returned to England, Rosemary was having second thoughts about marriage. She was happy to have Lattimore's company, and he spent much of his time in Norfolk; but to leave her cozy house for a man with wanderlust seemed too much. Lattimore decided to settle in Cambridge, where he had easy access to Norfolk and could spend frequent weekends there. July saw him apartment hunting and selling his house in Leeds.

In August he returned to Mongolia again. He described it as a "successful trip," but no diary-letter survives.

The move to Cambridge in November was harder than the moves to Paris and Leeds had been: he had to fit more impedimenta, including an "Augean cloaca" of FBI papers, into less space. He was now, he said, "as tightly wedged in among books as if I were bound between book covers myself." As for the ambience, Cambridge was more stimulating intellectually than was Paris.[39]


previous chapter
Chapter Thirty-One Paris
next chapter