This is quite simply an enchanting book and for two interconnected reasons. The first and most striking reaA 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 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....more
This is a wonderful account of Dickens' life. I've been a Dickens fan since my early twenties and have read all of his major works, often a couple ofThis is a wonderful account of Dickens' life. I've been a Dickens fan since my early twenties and have read all of his major works, often a couple of times. This study gave me a much deeper appreciation of the context of his works, and particularly his motivations and influences. Tomalin does a wonderful job of marshaling the huge amount of material available and turning it into a sympathetic and enthralling narrative. I very much appreciated that she didn't simply conclude the book at Dickens' death but gave us a fascinating insight into the succeeding 70 years showing how the lives of his family and friends developed after his demise. This was particularly important given that the full truth of the significance of his relationship with Nelly Ternan didn't surface until many years after his death....more
At the height of his fame in the nineteen-twenties and thirties Zweig was one of the most popular writers in the world. That he should have fallen froAt the height of his fame in the nineteen-twenties and thirties Zweig was one of the most popular writers in the world. That he should have fallen from such a lofty status is an enduring puzzle. Zweig writes with perception, wit and elegance and a writer of such ability and wide knowledge is the perfect person to write a life of Honoré de Balzac.
One reason this biography is so successful as an exploration of the inner life of Balzac is that Zweig seems to have an innate sympathy of and understanding for the trials and stresses felt by Balzac as he labored away under the crushing need to make a living from his writing.
A principal theme of Zweig's analysis is that Balzac spent much of his life caught in a trap of financial necessity that forced him to over-produce and over-strain his creative faculties. Sometimes this pressure was to the benefit of his creativity, but more often than not the perpetual grind meant he wrote too much that was not worthy of his talent.
The search for financial security also led to many of his romantic misadventures and misjudgments including his relationship and ultimate marriage to the Polish noblewoman Ewelina Hańska. Zweig provides a thorough examination of this literary affair from its outset to its tragic conclusion.
The biography is idiosyncratic and sympathetic rather than scholarly and comprehensive, but is a marvelous exposition of the short-comings and successes of Balzac and is a worthy tribute from one literary giant to another.
“One only makes books in order to keep in touch with one's fellows after one has ceased to breath, and thus to defend oneself against the inexorable fate of all that lives - transitoriness and oblivion.” Stefan Zweig...more
Le Carre's latest work is a fine example of how he continually reinvents his craft to keep his stories fresh and relevant. The themes he explores in tLe Carre's latest work is a fine example of how he continually reinvents his craft to keep his stories fresh and relevant. The themes he explores in this excellent thriller are extraordinary rendition and corporate incursions into National Intelligence work and the implications for public responsibility and accountability. As always the narrative and situations are diligently researched and plausibly laid out, his characters are solid and believable. Another great contribution from Le Carre to the perennial debate as to who watches the Watchers?...more