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In Xanadu: A Quest by William Dalrymple
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In Xanadu: A Quest (original 1989; edition 2000)

by William Dalrymple

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507None20,011 (3.82)27
Member:sunayak1
Title:In Xanadu: A Quest
Authors:William Dalrymple
Info:Lonely Planet Publications (2000), Paperback, 319 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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In Xanadu: A Quest by William Dalrymple (1989)

Recently added byshagger, UOMills, sr.vignesh24, private library, vise, Mirna974, chrishall57, mkedinburgh, sailaab
  1. 00
    Tracking Marco Polo by Timothy Severin (nandadevi)
    nandadevi: Dalrymple got through to China in 1987 where Severin could not in 1961. Both wrote (and travelled) with the energy (and flaws) of youth. Both improved considerably as authors and travellers later in life.
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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Malti in his review says it very well. It is interesting to note that in 1961 Tim Severin (‘Tracking Marco Polo’) trod the same path followed by Dalrymple in 1987. Both were in their early twenties, and in both cases their writing and journeying shows tremendous energy, but also a certain thoughtlessness characteristic of somewhat privileged youth (think Oxford and Cambridge Universities). To their credit it is the honesty of their accounts that shows them in such a bad light. Both became much better writers and journeyers later in life. Dalrymple got a little further along the trail of Marco Polo than Severin, and wrote a more substantial book out of it. However, this is certainly a ‘lesser’ work of Dalrymple’s and best sampled after reading some of his later works (and Severin’s ‘Tracking Marco Polo’), all of which may put you more in mind to overlook its (and his) youthful failings. ( )
  nandadevi | Mar 18, 2012 |
A Dalrymple book does not disappoint. Especially not his first publication, at the age of 22. To someone who loves travel, writing and adventure, Dalrymple's life on the road seems like out of a fairy tale. For two college students to be able to set out on a journey from England to Jerusalem, follow the Silk Route all the way up to China, on a budget of merely 700 pounds, seems to me to be a mixture of fond hope and absolute madness. But it works. This is more than just the tale of some hippies who want to backpack around the subcontinent. William and his companion (first Laura, then Louisa) are serious students of history, whose travel Bibles are the Travels of Marco Polo and other (more obscure) works about travel in Asia rather than Lonely Planet guides. Though William has visited the subcontinent before, he learns valuable lessons in cross-border travel (namely, how to go undetected while crossing borders illegally), bribe-giving and favour-taking, and cultural norms. Nor does he disguise his complete lack of appreciation of certain places. He is honest about his crankiness at hindrances such as boring, lifeless towns, cross-border tactics and the people he has to trust with them, miles and miles of never ending desert, lack of colour, food and sleep. His relief when he leaves the Afghan landscape to enter into Pakistan is palpable, and he does not hold back words. He is glad of the noise, colour and relative freedom the subcontinent brings him, after days of dreariness and having to watch his back. All that, however, does not stop him from admiring the architectural wonders he finds in Jerusalem, Turkey, Syria, etc. Towards the end of his journey, the pages are turned faster, only because he is being hounded by the police for entering into forbidden areas of China illegally. The book, I thought, ends too soon, but the pace fits the events and the stress of rushing the last few days. This book displays the author's lack of maturity when it comes to describing certain things or dismissing certain others, a tendency he has refined in his later, more researched works. But what comes through in all of his works, as I see it, is an unapologetic honesty. Never mind what he says in irritability of dry, desert-like landscape. One of the most outstanding observations comes while he is in Jerusalem, and only he has the guts to make it: "The Holy City has had more atrocities committed in it, more consistently, than any other town in the world. Sacred to three religions, the city has witnessed the worst intolerance and self-righteousness of all of them." ( )
2 vote milti | Dec 14, 2011 |
Author shows little insight into the lives of the people he meets on his journey. ( )
  lsmunroe | Apr 15, 2007 |
Reading this book taught me a travel writing lesson -- if you're going to write about buildings, you need to describe how seeing them made you feel, not what they looked like. I found myself skimming through a lot of long descriptions of obscure historical buildings with architectural terms I couldn't understand. I often felt frustrated with the pace of the book. This is not the story of a long, careful expedition down the route of Marco Polo; it's a whirlwind trip that doesn't give the author long enough to really explore the areas he's writing about. Local people with poor English are mostly a source of amusement and we don't get much sense of every day life in the places he describes. That said, the few places where he stopped to linger are vivid and well-done. Near-extinct tribal cultures and ancient Silk Road cities come alive, and so do his fascinating British travel partners. ( )
1 vote cestovatela | Apr 9, 2007 |
All you'd expect from a good travel book: history, geography, anthropology, humor, human interest. Thoroughly recommended. ( )
  name99 | Nov 10, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0006544150, Paperback)

One of the most successful, influential and acclaimed travel books of recent years. At the age of twenty-two, William Dalrymple left his college in Cambridge to travel to the ruins of Kublai Khan's stately pleasure dome in Xanadu. This is an account of a quest which took him and his companions across the width of Asia, along dusty, forgotten roads, through villages and cities full of unexpected hospitality and wildly improbable escapades, to Coleridge's Xanadu itself. At once funny and knowledgeable, In Xanadu is in the finest tradition of British travel writing. Told with an exhilarating blend of eloquence, wit, poetry and delight, it is already established as a classic of its kind.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:16 -0400)

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