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The Collector of Worlds: A Novel of Sir Richard Francis Burton Paperback – Bargain Price, January 19, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (January 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061351946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061351945
  • ASIN: B005M4ZCY8
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,249,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Troyanov recounts with gusto the three big adventures in Sir Richard Francis Burton's oversized life: his career as officer and spy—which ended when he delivered a report on British soldiers frequenting a male brothel; his famous journey to Mecca in the guise of a doctor from India; and his exploration, with John Speke, of the great African lakes that feed the Nile. The most alluring adventure is the Indian one, which largely concerns itself with Burton's affair with the luscious Kundalini, who ignites Burton's interest in Eastern wisdom stories by commingling storytelling with sex. Burton's haj to Mecca is fascinating for the details, and that Burton pulls it off. But the book's most satisfying adventure is the African explorations; Troyanov captures the psychology of the two very different (and by the end of the trip, mutually hostile) explorers as well as he does the histories of the African peoples whose lands they pass through. Troyanov (Mumbai to Mecca) is intimately acquainted with the Indian Ocean world, and this book has the cool virtuosity of one explorer saluting another. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The current boom in the fictional biography genre is responsible for the rescue of an array of fascinating historical figures from scholarly obscurity. Colonial officer, linguist, master of disguise, spy, and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton is a primary example. His larger-than-life true story serves as an ideal vehicle for an episodic foray into the nineteenth-century world of British colonialism. Boomeranging from India to Arabia to Africa, Burton encounters romance, intrigue, and danger while absorbing the cultures, languages, and customs of every place he visits. Troyanov artfully employs multiple narrators, lending these adventures both depth and perspective. Historical-fiction aficionados will definitely want to accompany this seasoned voyager on his exotic journeys. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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There is a glossary at the back of the book, but it seemed that every time I looked for a word, it was missing.
Dave Schwinghammer
In each story, Burton's adventures unfold from the perspective of outside observers, most often those who accompanied him in his travels.
G. Dawson
Burton is known for his exotic travel adventures all over the world in the 19th century, and was a linguist who spoke 29 languages!
Ted Bright

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Ben Farkash on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Troyanov's novel is an entertaining read. The incredible scope of Burton's life makes that almost a given. I do not recommend this novel to anybody who has read Burton's own accounts of his journeys in life, as they are spellbinding and unbeatable coming from the source himself. If you're willing to spend the time, Edward Rice's biography of Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton is the best of many good ones. Fawn Brodie's The Devil Drives is also good, if too dependent on psychoanalysis. But for a survey of Burton's remarkable life, The Collector of Worlds is both informative and good fun.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau on March 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This novel is about three episodes in the life of that fascinating 19th century character, Sir Richard Burton (1821 to 1890), soldier, amateur anthropologist and explorer.

The first, which takes up about half the book, covers his life as a soldier in India (1842 to 1859). Thoroughly bored by the routine and by the narrow vision of his fellow officers, he first began learning several of India's native languages, and then took pride in his ability to disguise himself as an Indian so as to be able to mingle with them and get closer to understanding their way of life. Initially, when he was stationed in Baroda, he studied the Hindus; but when he was moved to Muslim Sindh, he became particularly fascinated by Islam. The conqueror of Sindh, General Napier, got Burton to use his skills to gather intelligence for him; but Burton thought the General's wish to impose British values on the natives wrong and counter-productive. This made him unreliable in the opinion of the army and would block any promotion. He left India and the Army.

The second part covers his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1853, disguised as Sheikh Abdullah and having made himself so perfectly familiar with the theory and practice of Islam that nobody penetrated his disguise; and the Muslim world was duly shocked when on his return he published an account of this experience. This part of the story gives a vivid account of such a pilgrimage - the dangers of attacks by plunderers, the fulfilment when the goal has been finally reached, but also the sickness and death that was the fate of so many exhausted pilgrims.

The third part covers Burton's expedition of 1857, together with his colleague and rival, John Hanning Speke, to find the source of the Nile.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on August 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Fueled by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, adventure, and exploration, Richard Burton (1821 - 1870) cut a deep, wide swath across the Victorian British Empire, leaving reams of his own writings in his wake.

He spoke somewhere in the neighborhood of 29 languages. He traveled throughout India and the Middle East and sought the source of the Nile in Africa, nearly losing his life on numerous occasions. Renowned for his interest in local sexual proclivities, he translated the Kama Sutra and measured the sexual organs of men through whose lands he passed.

Given all this, and lots more, you would expect there to be cascades of colorful, swashbuckling fiction based on this outsize character. But there's hardly a trickle. There are lots of biographies fomenting lots of controversy, but little fiction and what there is seldom centers on Burton himself.

Bulgarian writer Troyanov, who grew up in Germany and Africa, and has traveled in many of the same places Burton did, sets out to remedy that lack. His big, vivid, thoughtful novel focuses on three periods in Burton's life: his early years as a young soldier in India; his famous pilgrimage to Mecca as an Indian Muslim on the sacred Hajj; and his first search for the Nile's source with partner John Speke.

The first and longest section introduces a young, eager, ignorant British officer to vibrant, teeming, mystical, squalid India. Burton spurns the cloistered existence of his fellow officers to immerse himself in the country. He explores the city's hidden byways and engages a teacher to learn the language and culture. But it's not enough.

"As long as he was a foreigner, he would learn almost nothing. There was only one solution; it appealed to him immediately.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwinghammer VINE VOICE on July 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In a note prior to beginning his novel, Iliya Troyanov makes the following disclaimer about THE COLLECTOR OF WORLDS: "Despite occasional direct quotations, its characters and plot are predominately the product of the author's imagination and make no claim to be measured against biographical fact." Rather then focus on Richard Burton, for some reason Troyanov let's us see him through the eyes of minor characters.

Troyanov divides the novel into three parts: Burton's exploits in India as a young army captain; his infiltration of Medina and Mecca; and his efforts to find the source of the Nile.

For the first segment, Troynanov relies on the point of view of Naukaram, Burton's servant. Most of this is about Naukaram's efforts to get a letter of recommendation written by a lahiya (a sort of scribe) by telling him of his time with Burton after he had been dismissed for getting into a fight with a chef. As a result we don't learn much about Burton's exploits as a spy. However, we do see him begin to wear Arab clothes and begin to learn several languages.

The second part, Burton's penetration of the Moslem holy cities, mostly deals with various Islamic officials investigating how Burton was able to overcome their defenses. We hear from The Sharif of Mecca among others. They interrogate the innocent pilgrims who accompanied Burton on his Hajj. Most have nothing but good things to say about Burton. Burton assumes the disguise of a Persian doctor and dervisher who likes to drink. This doesn't surprise the pilgrims much. Meanwhile we're introduced to some curious Islamic activities, such as circumambulating anti-clockwise the Kaaba, the supposed Rock of Abraham, seven times along with hundreds of other pilgrims who try to touch it.
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