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Timbuctoo Hardcover – July 5, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Secretum Mundi Publishing; Limited Edition edition (July 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0957242905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0957242906
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 8.2 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,434,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

TAHIR SHAH S TIMBUCTOO has arrived with eerie, serendipitous, timing. In the months leading up to its publication, a coup d etat and ensuing power vacuum in the West African nation of Mali has resulted in extremists taking over the country s northern region (where Timbuktu is located). Islamic militants, said to be affiliated with al-Qaeda, and who have piggy-backed on a long-running Tuareg rebellion, have since been busy consolidating their Taliban-style rule. Although the larger episode has received little coverage from Western news organizations, famous for turning a blind eye to African affairs, the most recent twists in the Malian plot have managed to focus the world s attention, if only for a brief moment, on a forlorn corner of the world which Shah reminds us was once the obsession of Europe. --The Los Angeles Review of Books

An opulent, large-format edition, printed in Hong Kong, this curious and original book has evaded the usual censorship imposed by Anglo-American publishers. Shah has organised the whole endeavour himself, following in the self-publishing footsteps of fellow British-Asian author Timothy Mo. His book manages to be politically incorrect in a subtle, decorous and wry manner. The moral is that the English were and are unwashed, cruel, duplicitous, imperialist barbarians. If you want an unmediated account of what some liberal, Western-educated Muslims really think of our unjust, decrepit, corrupt society, then read this amusing, entertainingly uncomfortable book. --The Independent

About the Author

Tahir Shah is the author of fifteen books, many of which chronicle a wide range of outlandish journeys through Africa, Asia and the Americas. For him, there's nothing so important as deciphering the hidden underbelly of the lands through which he travels. Shunning well-trodden tourist paths, he avoids celebrated landmarks, preferring instead to position himself on a busy street corner or in a dusty cafe and observe life go by. Insisting that we can all be explorers, he says there's wonderment to be found wherever we are - it's just a matter of seeing the world with fresh eyes.

Shah's forthcoming novel, TIMBUCTOO, is inspired by a true life tale from two centuries ago. The story of the first Christian to venture to Timbuctoo and back - a young illiterate American sailor - it has been an obsession since Shah discovered it in the bowels of the London Library twenty years ago.

He recently published a collection of his entitled TRAVELS WITH MYSELF, a body of work as varied and as any, with reportage pieces as diverse as the women on America's Death Row, to the trials and tribulations of his encounter in a Pakistani torture jail.

Another recent work, IN ARABIAN NIGHTS, looks at how stories are used in cultures such as Morocco, as a matrix by which information, values and ideas are passed on from one generation to the next. That book follows on the heels of the celebrated CALIPH'S HOUSE: A Year in Casablanca, lauded as one of Time Magazine's Top 10 Books of the year.

His other works include an epic quest through Peru's cloud forest for the greatest lost city of the Incas (HOUSE OF THE TIGER KING), as well as a journey through Ethiopia in search of the source of King Solomon's gold (IN SEARCH OF KING SOLOMON'S MINES). Previous to that, Shah published an account of a journey through the Amazon on the trail of the Birdmen of the Amazon (TRAIL OF FEATHERS), as well as a book of his experiences in India, as a godman's pupil (SORCERER'S APPRENTICE).

Tahir Shah's books have appeared in thirty languages and in more than seventy editions. They are celebrated for their original viewpoint, and for combining hardship with vivid description.

He also makes documentary films, which are shown worldwide on National Geographical Television, and The History Channel. The latest, LOST TREASURE OF AFGHANISTAN, has been screened on British TV and shown worldwide. While researching the programme Shah was arrested along with his film crew and incarcerated in a Pakistani torture jail, where they spent sixteen terrifying days and nights.

His other documentaries include: HOUSE OF THE TIGER KING, SEARCH FOR THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, and THE SEARCH FOR KING SOLOMON'S MINES. And, in addition to documentaries, Shah writes for the big screen. His best known work in this genre is the award-winning Imax feature JOURNEY TO MECCA, telling the tale of the fourteenth century Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta's first pilgrimage to Mecca.

Tahir Shah lives at Dar Khalifa, a sprawling mansion set squarely in the middle of a Casablanca shantytown. He's married to the graphic designer, Rachana Shah, and has two children, Ariane and Timur. His father was the Sufi writer, Idries Shah.


More About the Author

Tahir Shah is the author of fifteen books, many of which chronicle a wide range of outlandish journeys through Africa, Asia and the Americas. For him, there's nothing so important as deciphering the hidden underbelly of the lands through which he travels. Shunning well-trodden tourist paths, he avoids celebrated landmarks, preferring instead to position himself on a busy street corner or in a dusty café and observe life go by. Insisting that we can all be explorers, he says there's wonderment to be found wherever we are - it's just a matter of seeing the world with fresh eyes.

In the tradition of A Thousand and One Nights, Shah's first 2013 release, SCORPION SOUP, is a treasury of nested tales. One linking effortlessly into the next, the stories form a cornucopia of lore and values, the kind that has for centuries shaped the cultural landscape of the East. Amusing, poignant, and thoroughly entertaining, the collection stays with you, conjuring a magic all of its own.

Shah's 2012 novel, TIMBUCTOO, is inspired by a true life tale from two centuries ago. The story of the first Christian to venture to Timbuctoo and back - a young illiterate American sailor - it has been an obsession since Shah discovered it in the bowels of the London Library twenty years ago.

His 2011 collection entitled TRAVELS WITH MYSELF is a body of work as varied and as any, with reportage pieces as diverse as the women on America's Death Row, to the trials and tribulations of his encounter in a Pakistani torture jail.

Another recent work, IN ARABIAN NIGHTS, looks at how stories are used in cultures such as Morocco, as a matrix by which information, values and ideas are passed on from one generation to the next. That book follows on the heels of the celebrated CALIPH'S HOUSE: A Year in Casablanca, lauded as one of Time Magazine's Top 10 Books of the year.

His other works include an epic quest through Peru's cloud forest for the greatest lost city of the Incas (HOUSE OF THE TIGER KING), as well as a journey through Ethiopia in search of the source of King Solomon's gold (IN SEARCH OF KING SOLOMON'S MINES). Previous to that, Shah published an account of a journey through the Amazon on the trail of the Birdmen of the Amazon (TRAIL OF FEATHERS), as well as a book of his experiences in India, as a godman's pupil (SORCERER'S APPRENTICE).

Tahir Shah's books have appeared in thirty languages and in more than seventy editions. They are celebrated for their original viewpoint, and for combining hardship with vivid description.

He also makes documentary films, which are shown worldwide on National Geographical Television, and The History Channel. The latest, LOST TREASURE OF AFGHANISTAN, has been screened on British TV and shown worldwide. While researching the programme Shah was arrested along with his film crew and incarcerated in a Pakistani torture jail, where they spent sixteen terrifying days and nights.

His other documentaries include: HOUSE OF THE TIGER KING, SEARCH FOR THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, and THE SEARCH FOR KING SOLOMON'S MINES. And, in addition to documentaries, Shah writes for the big screen. His best known work in this genre is the award-winning Imax feature JOURNEY TO MECCA, telling the tale of the fourteenth century Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta's first pilgrimage to Mecca.

Tahir Shah lives at Dar Khalifa, a sprawling mansion set squarely in the middle of a Casablanca shantytown. He's married to the graphic designer, Rachana Shah, and has two children, Ariane and Timur. His father was the Sufi writer, Idries Shah.

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Customer Reviews

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This book is very different from Shah's other works in the sense that it is a novel, based on historical fact.
André de Koning
Tahir's penchant for interesting detail and peculiar characters makes for an intriguing and gripping story that really gives one the feeling of being there.
Cynthia Merchant
From beginning to end I thoroughly enjoyed reading Timbuctoo on Kindle, and I can't wait to get my copy of the hard cover book!
Paul Berglund

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Eric T on June 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
If you like a story about the oppressed, the downtrodden or the outsider coming through in spite of harrowing events, grave injustices and enormous odds stacked against them; characters you love to hate; and a good old-fashioned love story, then you may well find wonderful resonances and enjoyment in Tahir Shah's epic novel, Timbuctoo. There are some anti-establishment sentiments in the mix and, given some of the characters' proclivities and activities -- such as the Prince Regent's whimsical excesses and the making of fortunes from trade in unfortunate African slaves -- rightly so, I feel. These themes are timeless.

There's a wise, old saying that you only possess that which would survive a shipwreck. In Robert Adams' case, this was faith, hope, gritty determination and above all the passionate love which fuelled and drove these qualities in him, and to which he clung on for dear life. We're all shipwrecked when we're brought into this world, become enslaved in one way or another and, separated from our "beloved", we yearn to be reunited. There's something about this process that touches on the mystical. In a sense, then, like the old woodcutter in the traditional story of Mushkil Gusha (Remover of All Difficulties), Robert Adams is telling us our own archetypal story and also showing us a way through all this to freedom. The details are very different for each individual, but the underlying pattern is the same.

I found that the author's use of short chapters and often short paragraphs split up the novel into easily manageable "bites", added to the pace of the story and also heightened the drama. With many deft twists and turns in the captivating plot, the book was a real page turner and unputdownable.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Luke Ferrell on June 23, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
In Timbuctoo, Tahir Shah steps out of the territory of travel writing into a compelling, fast-paced novel filled with adventure, intrigue, and perhaps most of all, unstoppable true love. Even from the first few sentences, I felt that unusual sense of joy when I know I'm about to settle into a great novel.

Set in the 1800s, and inspired by real events, Shah paints vivid and memorable characters, takes us to fantastic locales, and creates a sense of tension and intrigue which is hard to put down. As with his other books, there is also much between the lines, if one cares to notice. Not the least of which is that the eventual fates of the characters are exactly in proportion to the degree to which each adheres to his or her own personal Truth.

Readers familiar with Shah's non-fiction works will feel right at home in this adventure. Shah is, of course, a real-life adventurer of sorts. Some might even say he's a teensy bit mad, but you know better when you see his attention to detail and love of human depth; they are here in fine form. I dare say his own travels and ordeals have served to prepare him for Timbuctoo.

Timbuctoo is a joy to read. It is sooooo good. I'll not be surprised if it becomes a bit hit.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ian on June 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Tahir Shah's Timbuctoo is a fast-paced, entertaining, insightful and slightly fictionalized look at the tale of the American Robert Adams, the first "Christian" man to reach Timbuctoo in the early 19th century and live to tell about it. Now, at the outset of this review, I feel it fair to warn those looking for straight historical fiction that Timbuctoo does utilize a number of over the top plot twists throughout the telling of its story, but would further add that in so doing, nothing is lost from the tale's entertainment value. Indeed, for the reader of Shah's travel books, Timbuctoo is quite a departure,but one expertly made. The quality of writing and the richness and largess of the characters' personalities will keep the reader hooked and make the book incredibly hard to put down. Speaking from personal experience, I managed to finish the work in two days through my sheer lack of willpower and the addictive quality of Mr. Shah's work (and this despite the tendency for my eyes to go bloodshot after I stare at my laptop Kindle too long!)

In not so many words, this is the book that Shah's career has been preparing him to write. Much of the travel-born wisdom that he has documented in his previous works is brought in to bring additional shape to the fine texture of his narrative. Those who have read Sorcerer's Apprentice, for example, will see Shah's encounter with an Indian hangman written in the character of the man in charge of the public executions in Shah's lively depiction of Regency era London. Shah's expertise on shrunken heads is also on display early on in the book, as is his extensive knowledge of North Africa and the Arab world. Also, one cannot read of Robert Adam's slavery in the Sahara and not be reminded of Mr. Shah's own experience as a prisoner in Pakistan.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By neera on July 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
*Disclaimer: I was contacted by the author and given a copy of the e-book in return for an honest review. I've never met or corresponded with the author previously. No compensation for this review, monetary or otherwise, was received by me.*

It was with mild trepidation I began to read Timbuctoo, the first foray into fiction writing by Tahir Shah. I'm a huge admirer of his travel books, especially Sorcerer's Apprentice (if you haven't read it, buy it along with Timbuctoo!) and wondered if this book would hold muster. I'm glad to say it did.

Timbuctoo, told story-within-a-story style, tells the story of an illiterate American, who spent years as a slave in Africa. He makes his way to England after many horrors and adventures, and collapses in the streets. He is unable to return home to his beloved wife until he narrates his tale to London society, and so becomes a slave again, of sorts, in England. Finding his way home, to his Beloved, is the goal that gives meaning to his ordeals, and furnishes the strength he needs to carry on through adversity.

If it is a purely rip-roaring yarn you are after, you have found it. If you are looking for some depth along with your fun, you have also found it. Many themes run though this tale - freedom vs. slavery (in all its forms), content vs. container, sincerity vs. hypocrisy, the benefits of persistence etc.

It is a long book, over 500 pages long, but don't let that stop you - the prose is light and engaging, and I had the sensation of the book reading me, rather than the other way around (does this happen to anyone else?)

The most important lesson I got from this book could be summed up in a quote from Winston Churchill: "Never ever, ever give up."
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