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Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East Paperback – October 4, 2010
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More About the Author
I usually write non-fiction, mainly exploring interests in Asia and the history of written communication. So 'The Lion's Share', available only on Kindle, is something different - a new edition of a thriller written some 25 years ago when I wasn't sure what I wanted to focus on. It's about the 'real' - in quotes, i.e. fictional - fate of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia.
Most of the time, I like to mix history, narrative and personal experience, exploring the places I write about. It brings things to life, and it's a reaction against an enclosed, secure, rural childhood in Kent. I did German and French at Oxford, and two postgraduate courses, History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (to join an expedition that never happened).
After working in journalism and publishing, I turned to writing, with occasional forays into film, TV and radio. A planned trilogy on three major revolutions in writing has resulted in two books, 'Alpha Beta' (on the alphabet) and 'The Gutenberg Revolution', both republished in 2009. The third, on the origin of writing, is on hold, because it depends on researching in Iraq. (On the fourth revolution, the Internet, many others can write far better than me).
My interest in Mongolia revived in 1996 when I spent a couple of months in the Gobi. 'Gobi: Tracking the Desert' was the first book on the region since the 1920's (those by the American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews). In Mongolia, everything leads back to Genghis. I followed. The result was 'Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection', now appearing in 20 languages. Luckily, there's more to Mongol studies than Genghis. 'Attila the Hun' and 'Kublai Khan' came next.
Another main theme in Asian history is the ancient and modern relationship between Mongolia and China. 'The Terracotta Army', published to in 2007, was followed by 'The Great Wall', which took me from Xinjiang to the Pacific. 'The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan' (combining history, character analysis and modern leadership theory) and 'Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East' pretty much exhausted Inner Asian themes for me.
So recently I have become interested in Japan. For 'Samurai: The Last Warrior', I followed in the footsteps of Saigo Takamori, the real 'Last Samurai', published in February 2011. After that, more fiction, perhaps.
I live in north London, inspired by a strong and beautiful family - wife, children and grand-children.
Top Customer Reviews
So, asked John Man, what does current scholarship say about these questions? "Marco Polo: The Journey that Changed the World" gives Man's answers in 15 chapters. The chapters are organized somewhat linearly in that they include Kublai's empire from Polo's arrival to the Khan's death and organized somewhat opportunistically in chapters such as Xanadu and Marco's relationships with women.
The overall conclusions are that some of Polo's narrative is consistent with what evidence is available, such as the likelihood Marco actually did spend many years in Kublai's China, the existence of a huge ruc-like bird, and that Xanadu probably was shaped like a stately pleasure dome. along the lines of the Mongolian ger. Some is also certainly not true and a lot is indeterminable. What to me makes this book worthy reading is the sorting out of the details and specifics like the number of bridges in Kublai's capitol city and claims Marco made of Kublai's innovations in legal, social, and governmental areas, including that wonder, printed money.
Man's modus operandi makes this a traveller's tale about a traveller's tale.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Informative, but not that interesting. It moves too slow to hold my interest. I only made it about half way through before I gave up on it.Published 4 days ago by A. Mckee
Easy to read. Full of information. Interesting incite into Marco Polo's world and the current state of that part of the world.Published 4 months ago by G Neil Holm
Not very interesting unless you were planning a walking tour of the silk road.Published 5 months ago by Vinnie Venosa
An in depth look at one of our greatest explorers, with an analysis of the truth behind the legend. I found this a good read that kept my attention.Published 6 months ago by Kevin Snow
This is not a review of this book, as I haven't read it. I can only hope that it's more accurate than its marketing, which is horribly wrong. Read morePublished 6 months ago by WuMing