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In Xanadu: A Quest by William Dalrymple

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

by William Dalrymple

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5551217,987 (3.83)31
Title:In Xanadu: A Quest
Authors:William Dalrymple
Info:Lonely Planet Publications (2000), Paperback, 319 pages
Collections:Your library

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In Xanadu: A Quest by William Dalrymple (1989)

  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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Nice, nice read. A whole lotta things I'm not terribly conversant in regarding the Middle East and Near East, but still an excellent read. The recapitulation of the journey through Turkey was interesting and through China as well. I've got a copy of Marco Polo's Journeys sio that will hopefully get read this winter.... ( )
  untraveller | Oct 10, 2015 |
A very interesting travel book, describing a daring journey through Israel, Cyprus, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, China and other countries I've doubtless forgotten. Dalrymple writes very well, it's a pleasure to journey with him. ( )
  cazfrancis | Jun 26, 2015 |
Right off the bat I have to say I love an author who uses the word "churlish." I could tell In Xanadu was going to be a crazy ride when he apologizes in his dedication (who does that?). William Dalrymple takes us on a journey from Lebanon to Inner Mongolia, following the historic path of Marco Polo (Travels). Dalrymple's ultimate goal is to reach the famed palace of Xanadu, of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" fame. For the first half of his expedition he is accompanied by savvy traveler, Laura. The extraordinary thing is he met her at a dinner party just a few weeks before his departure. She just invited herself along because that's the type of person she is. From the way Dalrymple describes her, he sounds a little afraid of her. The second half of his journey is with newly ex-girlfriend, Laura. While not as fierce as Laura, Louisa has endearing qualities all her own. I don't think I will spoil it for anyone when I say they do make it to Xanadu, despite many mishaps along the way. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jan 27, 2015 |
This was Dalrymple’s first book, describing his journey “in the footsteps of Marco Polo” from Jerusalem to the site of Kublai Khan’s summer capital in Inner Mongolia, made during the Long Vacation of 1986, whilst Dalrymple was still an undergraduate in Cambridge. The journey was prompted largely by hearing of the opening of the Karakoram Highway and realising that it might now be possible for foreigners to travel overland from Pakistan to Sinkiang. And I think that's the clue to a slight weakness in the book: unlike his strong interaction with John Moschos in From the Holy Mountain, Dalrymple doesn't display any particular affection for the alleged source text. If anything, he makes it clear that he's rather bored with Polo, whose book he characterises as a 13th century business travel handbook to Central Asia.

What the book is really about is the process of travel, as experienced in a succession of accidents by a slightly naive young man bumbling across Asia (accompanied by a comically forceful young woman as far as Lahore, and a different, comically feeble one thereafter: neither of them appears to have brought a dulcimer along). This is always interesting and entertaining - Dalrymple is definitely a good writer, even in his early twenties, and the journey itself is a bold and enterprising one - but there's probably a bit too much of the Robert Byrons about it. Albeit without Byron’s aggressive nastiness - when Dalrymple makes fun of the locals, he always makes sure that he makes himself look even more foolish than they. ( )
1 vote thorold | May 20, 2014 |
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. ( )
1 vote nandadevi | Mar 18, 2012 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:02 -0400)

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