Robert Ervin Howard was on vacation. The author of Conan the Barbarian lived in Cross Plains, Texas: a small rural town of some 1500 residents. On this March afternoon in 1932, Howard had driven several hours south to San Antonio, the old Spanish metropolis. There, he enjoyed the ‘beautiful luxurious groves of golden fruit’ that ornamented the towns along the Rio Grande highways, and scoffed at ‘movie cowboys’ dressed in fur: the West’s prickly pears and cacti would tear the wool off their sheepskin jackets and chaps.
While in San Antonio, Howard got talking with a ‘high caste’ Indian man who lived in China—we never learn his name. The man’s wife played the yangqin, a Chinese dulcimer, and the two men discussed Japan’s militarism. The man’s sympathies were with China in particular, and ‘the Orient’ in general. He was clearly in favour of Indian independence, though doubted the success of Ghandi’s pacifism.
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