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The Customs of the Kingdoms of India…
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The Customs of the Kingdoms of India (Penguin Great Journeys)

by Marco Polo

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It's basically ridiculous to "rate" a book of this sort. First of all, it is barely a book, being a selection from Polo's travel writings, one of a group of five or six I acquired somewhere or other, put out by Penguin in a "Great Journeys" series. "India" in this case, includes the eastern coast of Africa, down as far as Madacasgar. Second, it is intrinsically fascinating, no matter how stilted the writing because these are Polo's own words and descriptions (and interpretations) of what he saw first-hand (although I suspect some bits were related to him by others). Third, it isn't possible to disentangle what is accurate, what is cultural misunderstanding, and what is fabrication, and yet even so, the narrative fascinates, as it is all of a piece with the late medieval mind. Magic was real and existed, in this case, there are weatherworkers in Zanzibar, so beware! Why not have a male and a female island where men and women live alone nine months of the year and only mingle (on female island) long enough for procreation and corn planting! (Boy children being handed over at the age of 14). One somewhat chilling and no doubt accurate item is to learn that there have been pirates in that part of the Indian Ocean between Africa and India for a thousand years (and more?). Polo's writing style is somewhat repetitive, but rather hypnotic and reassuring in its own way and, at 85 pages, I can pretty much endure anything. I wouldn't seek out the whole of Polo's work, but I'm glad to have had a taste of it and I'll be keeping it. The covers and general appearance of the series are very appealing. **** ( )
  sibyx | Mar 2, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141025409, Paperback)

As Marco Polo (1254-1324) returned home across the Indian Ocean, after years in the service of Genghis Khan, he picked up a fabulous array of stories from sailors and merchants, about the peoples of the region, some reliable, some wholly implausible, but all fascinating. "Great Journeys" allows readers to travel both around the planet and back through the centuries - but also back into ideas and worlds frightening, ruthless and cruel in different ways from our own. Few reading experiences can begin to match that of engaging with writers who saw astounding things: great civilisations, walls of ice, violent and implacable jungles, deserts and mountains, and multitudes of birds and flowers new to science. Reading these books is to see the world afresh, to rediscover a time when many cultures were quite strange to each other, where legends and stories were treated as facts and in which so much was still to be discovered.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

As Marco Polo returned home across the Indian Ocean, after years in the service of Genghis Khan, he picked up a fabulous array of stories from sailors and merchants, about the peoples of the region, some reliable, some wholly implausible, but all fascinating.… (more)

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