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At best, this book is comical in its approach. It is certainly not deserving of the label of a serious travel book. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — In Xanadu by William Dalrymple.
While waiting for the results of his college exams, William Dalrymple decides to fill in his summer break with a trip. But the vacation he plans is no light-hearted student jaunt - he decides to retrace the epic journey of Marco Polo from Jerusalem to Xanadu, the ruined palace of Kubla Khan, north of Peking.
For the first half of the trip he is accompanied by Laura, whom h While waiting for the results of his college exams, William Dalrymple decides to fill in his summer break with a trip. For the first half of the trip he is accompanied by Laura, whom he met at a dinner party two weeks before he left; for the second half he is accompanied by Louisa, his very recently ex-girlfriend. Intelligent and funny, "In Xanadu" is travel writing at its best.
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Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of In Xanadu: A Quest. Aug 08, Antara rated it really liked it. I love William Dalrymple for the simple fact that he writes about his amazing travels through a seamless blend of fact and fiction.
Having read and loved his City of Djinns a must-read if you're a Dilliwala , Nine Lives and White Mughals, I have loved this first book of his as well.
In this book, the author, a final year Cambridge student, tries to backpack his way through the route Marco Polo had taken - Turkey, Iran and finally China, in the Inner Mongols in Xanadu where Marco Polo ended his I love William Dalrymple for the simple fact that he writes about his amazing travels through a seamless blend of fact and fiction.
In this book, the author, a final year Cambridge student, tries to backpack his way through the route Marco Polo had taken - Turkey, Iran and finally China, in the Inner Mongols in Xanadu where Marco Polo ended his voyage.
In volatile political conditions, with a nomad's eye, a sometimes cynical sense of humor and only a 13th century book to guide him, the author takes the reader through time. With him we experience the creation of history, the readiness to savor the unexpected and the realization of why humans through centuries have been driven by wanderlust for the unknown - because, more often than not, it is quite literally the journey and not the destination that matters.
I used to like Dalrymple. But this book turned out to be yet another account of a White man on a daring trip across the world in dangerous lands from whence it is next to impossible to come out alive, all while writing encouragingly of every stereotype the Whites have ever come up with of every other race apart from themselves.
Anyone who is not a British is either dangerous, "stupid", uncouth, imbecilic, unfriendly and hostile or subservient to the White man in a servile way.
In way too many passages, Dalrymple speaks less like a historian and more like an inflated Cambridge spoiled brat and the pages are full of his whining. The beginning of his journey reveals him as one whose ego cannot seem to accept the fact that the Byzantines lost and the Ottomans won in the years past. There is not a single positive word I have come across written of the Ottomans or of the Turks in general.
Any positive comment that the reader comes across is only when Dalrymple has run out of anything negative to say, and even that is immediately followed by a passage with disparaging humour that negates what came previously. Dalrymple's words stink of the awareness of their wretched losses in the past. His patronising tone does not help to conceal his thinly veiled racism and antagonism towards other cultures. Even his Islamophobia shines across in this telling exchange: '"You like Islam?
Eager to be a success, Dalrymple's attempts to make people laugh comprise of mining the Englishman's guidebook to stereotyping the rest of the world. He makes fun of the people's inabilities to speak English, often translating what they speak in their native tongues into broken and incorrect English in order to elicit cheap laughs from his colonial audience. A lot of the conversations seem made up as they seem very convenient to Dalrymple's cause of sounding witty.
I do not know if it is an attempt on his part to come across as a "critical scholar of Cambridge" but if it is so, it falls flat on its face, only highlighting his racist mindset.
There is an air of self-aggrandisement in every page and his spoilt White-boy privilege reeks from every word. He does not even spare his female travel companions.
His portrayal of Laura and Louisa reads like caricature, which is true of his representation of practically everyone he meets on the way as well. While he subtly puts across messages like how European girls are the only girls worth calling beautiful etc. Laura, his travel companion in the first half of the journey is painted as a tough, domineering and indestructible woman while Louisa, who accompanies him in the second half, is the polar opposite of being "beautiful, delicate and fragrant" his words not mine.
He is also genuinely surprised to find Laura reading Mills and Boon at one stage of their journey and seems incapable of reconciling the fact that someone as tough as Laura could be capable of having healthy sexual desires as well, and that she would choose to read erotica out in the open rather than the obviously intellectually superior Fall of Constantinople which he makes a point of boasting before changing the topic.
The exchanges with the natives are almost all carried out by Dalrymple with Laura and Louisa sometimes chipping in to not let the reader forget about their existence. I pity those poor, intelligent women who had to suffer William Dalrymple's company for such a long, overland journey. I am willing to excuse him on the grounds that he was merely 20 years old when he wrote this book.
Still, that is not excuse enough as that is old enough to know the difference between good humour and outright disrespect of other cultures. I also applaud his determination in following this journey out to the end, and for laying the ground and following up with an original idea. Credits where credits due: following Marco Polo's footsteps across the Silk Road is, after all, quite a feat and I give it an extra star only because of his excellent command over the turns of the English language.
I only wish this journey was attempted by someone who would show more respect to the cultures and peoples that are encountered in this journey. I wonder, sometimes, if someone were to write a travel book about the West in an equally disparaging and patronising manner, would it get published?
View 1 comment. A Thousand and One Tales from the Silk Road This is quite simply an enchanting book and for two interconnected reasons. The first and most striking reason is that Dalrymple manages to capture and convey the shear sense of wonder and excitement that comes from traveling across the world when young. So young, in fact, that I kept having to remind myself that he was only 22 when he wrote it.
If that were its only noteworthy aspect the book would be just one of many other worthy works of travel and ex A Thousand and One Tales from the Silk Road This is quite simply an enchanting book and for two interconnected reasons. If that were its only noteworthy aspect the book would be just one of many other worthy works of travel and exploration.
What makes Dalrymple's book so compelling is his extensive grasp of the history and culture of the lands through which he traveled. I like to think that I have read a little of the literature relevant to the countries he passed through but time and again I was brought up short by some tale of a character, event or place of which I had never heard but that had caught Dalrymple's imagination and whose story he wished to share.
He proved to be a teller of tales every bit as adept and entrancing as Scheherazade. The premise of the book is that after graduating Dalrymple wanted to re-trace the footsteps of Marco Polo from Jerusalem across Asia Minor and deep into the heart of Asia in search of the legendary Xanadu. To do this he had to pass through Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China, visiting some of the most important and memorable sites of antiquity on the way. He made his journey in the late 80s meaning that his journey, although maybe not as perilous or difficult, was a worthy successor to Marco Polo's epic voyage.
Since reading In Xanadu I have gone on to read several other books by Dalrymple and while his mature style is a little more settled and refined I look back on this first journey I shared with him with a special fondness for its marvelous exuberance and sense of the infinite possibility of youth. View all 3 comments. A fun trek across the continent. Full of entertaining anecdotes, colorful characters and challenges. Well worth the read. Recommended to me by my daughter who was spot on once again.
Dalrymple entertains with his British wit, colorful portrayals, sense of adventure and caricatures of his fellow travels. Although a fun read, it gives the reader historical context as well as a look at the different cultures. Recommend for Around the World readers. Aug 16, Adi rated it liked it Shelves: travel , nonfiction , history , turkey , china. He then immortalized his journey in The Travels, which later became one of the most detailed pieces of travel writing ever completed.
In his first book, the then year old Mr. Darlymple takes readers back on the same route, attempting at every page to compare and re-live the experience that Polo may have felt on his epic journey. In an age where thousands of miles are shrunk into a ten-hour ride in an aluminum tube, Xanadu refreshes the reader by painting the gradual transitions that are an essential part of going from one place to another.
The appearance of the lamps in the Holy Sepulcher, the design of Turkish mosques, a rare silk mill in a Armenian village or the vivid descriptions of a Uighur market in China — the details are just beautiful.
Darlymple is clearly of scholarly leanings, a fact brought out repeatedly in the intricate descriptions of the architecture, and his ability to go back to some little-known text to draw a comparison between the present and the past.
In Xanadu: A Quest
As he and his companions travel across the width of Asia—crossing through Acre, Aleppo, Tabriz, Tashkurgan, and other mysterious and sometimes hellish places—they encounter dusty, forgotten roads, unexpected hospitality, and difficult challenges. Stylish, witty, and knowledgeable about everything from the dreaded order of Assassins to the hidden origins of the Three Magi, this is travel writing at its best. Rich with the sights, smells, history and feel of Asia. A classic. Dalrymple is plainly brilliant, bonkers, or both. Dalrymple recounts his saga with a fine mixture of humour and erudition, and with the exuberance of youth. It is full of life and very funny.
The book begins with William Dalrymple taking a vial of holy oil from the burning lamps of the Holy Sepulchre , which he is to transport to Shangdu , the summer seat of the King Kubla Khan. It has been mentioned that Kubla Khan wanted a hundred learned men armed with Christian knowledge to come to his Khanate and spread the knowledge of Christianity. However, that plan was abandoned, and Marco Polo, along with his uncle, set out from Jerusalem on the silk route to Shang-du, to deliver a vial of the holy oil, which was rumoured to be inexhaustible, and therefore kept the lamps at the Sepulchre constantly burning. The rest of the journey is outlined with descriptions of most of the ancient sites along the Silk Route, which Marco Polo was supposed to have passed.