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In Xanadu: A Quest Paperback – April 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Series: Travel Literature
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Lonely Planet; US Ed edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1864501731
  • ISBN-13: 978-1864501735
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,218,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

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.

Customer Reviews

Sometimes the reader is left to discover the humor of the situation through one of his dialogues.
E. A. Lovitt
You hear lots of exotic sounding words and place-names but are not left with much more than a glimpse of each place passed through.
Doug Anderson
His journey takes him through the glorious Mongol empire (founded by the very enigmatic Genghis Khan).
Sharad Yadav

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Lovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on July 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
William Dalrymple travelled 12,000 miles overland from Jerusalem to Xanadu in order to retrace the journey of Marco Polo, and I think the Venetian probably had the easier trip--- in 1271 Marco Polo didn't have to smuggle himself along the Silk Route by burrowing into the back of a coal truck.
The author calls his journey a 'quest' rather than a 'vacation,' since it involved not only a goal, but also a great deal of hardship and suffering. However "In Xanadu" is an excellent book to take on vacation. It is a lucid and sometimes hilarious account of a very low-budget journey through Asia ($1100 financed the entire trip through Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, and the breadth of China.) And best of all, no matter how badly your own vacation turns out, you can always pick this book up and find Dalrymple in a more miserable spot than you are.
There is also beauty and moments of scholarly excitement when the author identifies some feature of the landscape with a passage from Marco Polo's journal. I particularly liked his description of a nocturnal train trip through Turkey. He sees dry flatlands transformed into lush pasturage and wonders at the source of water. Then the train comes upon a river, and Dalrymple unfolds his map:
"Its Turkish name, the Firat Nehri, meant nothing to me. Only when I followed the thin blue line down through Syria and out towards Baghdad, did I see the river's more familiar name --- the Euphrates....Is there another river which carries with it so many associations?...The river which ran through the Garden of Eden, one of the five rivers of the Apocalypse! Following its course on the map, its banks are littered with the names of the ancient cities it once gave life to: Mari, Nippur, Uruk, Larsa, Erdu, Kish.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
"In Xanadu", Dalrymple's first book began as a pursuit of Marco Polo's trail from Jerusalem to China, ending in the summer palace of Kubla Khan at Xanadu, north of modern Beijing. Marco Polo, was the Italian merchant who went to China in 1271, and returned with new discoveries including gunpowder, pasta, paper, silks, etc. Dalrymple creates an interest in his trip because he combines human characteristics with geographic and historic significance, so that the reader feels personally involved in the trip.
In addition to being a superb adventure travelogue, Dalrymple has infused historical details in "In Xanadu". He is a scholar of ancient history, and punctuates his observations with historical facts and anecdotal quips. It is amazing how he notes in great detail conversations, descriptions and moods that transcend the pages to allow the reader to experience first hand the locations he describes. Contrary to Paul Theroux, however, Dalrymple gives the impression that he actually enjoys the people he meets, even though sometimes you could imagine that he has a smirk on his face as he talks to them. He is non-judgmental about their lives or surroundings, be they Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, or Christian.
The most striking features of his trip are the risks he seems to take in meeting with people who do not speak his language, eating foods he does not recognize, staying in inns that feel more like latrines, riding in buses that do not have luxuries like seats, and most importantly, venturing into China without a permit (which he is unable to get due to the confusion between the different Chinese authorities he contacts in the countries he visits).
Dalrymple is a most interesting author of historical travel books, and I can't wait to see what he is going to choose for his next adventure.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on August 29, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Of the three William Dalrymple books I've read this one is the least satisfying. Its a fun read but ultimately not a very substantial one. City of Djinns & Age of Kali are both excellent books on India and highly recommended. In Xanadu is one of those travel books that is dominated by its itinerary. You hear lots of exotic sounding words and place-names but are not left with much more than a glimpse of each place passed through. Each country just feels like a check point as the border crossings are what give the book what drama and humor it has. For example in Iran he is detained by a policeman at a remote checkpoint but when he produces his Cambridge library card the officer exclaims, "Oh, Agah, by the great Ali! This is the most famous university in the world." And then the officer not only lets him go but offers his services as a tour guide. It is a funny story but as a reader you begin asking yourself what the point of the journey is if all Dalrymple is really concerned with is crossing borders and finding the next mode of transport to get him to the next town. The journey at times feels more like an endurance challenge than anything else. Dalrymple does quote from a number of great travel writers at timely moments along the way but in doing so he simply makes you wish you were reading their books instead of his. There are a number of books about the Silk Road or Persia in particular(Robert Byron's In Oxonia) that may be worth considering as an alternative to this book. Dalrymples expertise is architecture and he spends time speculating about the medieval churches and crusader fortifications which he encounters. The few architectural passages are interesting and informative but there are only a few of them.Read more ›
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