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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 Kahn, north of Peking. 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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Lately, books on India by British writers have proliferated, but the accounts by Darymple (From the Holy Mountain; City of Dijnns) are incontestably some of the best. In Indian mythology, the Age of Kali is characterized as one of darkness. The 19 essays in the Age o f Kali, which have never been available in the United States, portray the Indian subcontinent (including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean) in the 1990s. The essays offer a wide range of interesting portraits, from a chief minister who is not upper caste, a village social worker who triumphs over reactionary forces, and a Hindi rap megastar. Dalrymple's account is most readable when he shows without simplification in the disparate elements and challenges faced on many fronts, and it is essential reading for anyone interested in the Indian subcontinent. With the publication of The Age of Kali, Lonely Planet is reissuing In Xanadu (originally published in a 1989 Vintage edition), which won the 1990 Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award and a Scottish Arts Council Spring Book Award. In this travelog, Dalrymple retraced Marco Polo's route from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to Kubla Khan's summer capital in Xanadu, entering China without a permit. His purpose was to describe the places and people he encountered on the road and interweave them with historical flashbacks to Polo's time. In Xanadu is recommended for public libraries, while The Age of Kali is suitable for both public and academic.
-Ravi Shenoy, North Central Coll. Lib., Naperville, IL.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Following in the footsteps of Marco Polo, then-Cambridge University student Dalrymplepk embarks on an overland journey from Jerusalem to Xanadu, through "twelve thousand miles of extremely dangerous, inhospitable territory." Ultimately, there is scarcely any danger, but there is ample history and color. In the ancient city of Acre, Dalrymple refuses narcotics from an Arab boy who, when praised for his excellent English, reveals that he learned it in jail. When Dalrymple reaches Iran with a female companion in tow, he is surprised by how tolerant and Westernized Iranians are, despite the religious revolution. Upon seeing a sign that says, "Allah Commands the Re-use of Renewable Resources," the author observes, "We had expected anything of the Ayatollah. But hardly that he would turn out to be an enthusiastic ecologist." Dalrymple is a delightful guide, capable of waxing poetic upon first sight of the Euphrates River, while maintaining the bright-eyed perceptions of an explorer. When, like Polo, he arrives in Xanadu with a phial of holy oil, it is the culmination of a brave and fantastic journey. The author is bureau chief for the London Sunday Correspondent in New Delhi. First serial to Conde Nast Traveler.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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