It began with a spark...
A house is burning. Its six tenants include a failed priest, a naturalist, a neurosurgeon and a photographer. Their landlord's relationship to them is both intimate and shadowy. At times he shares their obsessions and memories. He will also share their fate.
The passions of these individuals reach beyond the dying house that holds them. One recalls a lonely childhood, another the cremation grounds of India, another an African refugee camp. But will their stories be consumed forever by the flames?
The people, their history and the beauty of an island on the brink of tragedy.
This is the account of a unique journey - a six-hundred-mile trek on foot around Cyprus in the last year of the island's peace. Colin Thubron intertwines myth, history and personal anecdote in a quest from which the characters and places, architecture and landscape all spring vividly to the reader's eye.
Edward has lost his short term-memory. He hopes it will return when he sees the cottage in which he lives. He recognizes his overcoat on the hook, his books, the double bed. The mystery however, is Naomi. Edward has no recollection of who she is or why she has left him a love letter.
With Thubron's customary clarity he draws a bleak, amnesiac world in which a young man must face again old griefs and linger 'like a coward, just this side of knowing'. On the other side, the memory of a destructive, obsessive relationship looms.
TOP TEN BESTSELLER
Mount Kailas is the most sacred of the world's mountains - holy to one fifth of humanity. Isolated beyond the central Himalayas, its summit has never been scaled, but for centuries the mountain has been ritually circled by Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.
Colin Thubron joins these pilgrims, after an arduous trek from Nepal, through the high passes of Tibet, to the magical lakes beneath the slopes of Kailas itself. He talks to secluded villagers and to monks in their decaying monasteries; he tells the stories of exiles and of eccentric explorers from the West.
Yet he is also walking on a pilgrimage of his own. Having recently witnessed the death of the last of his family, his trek around the great mountain awakes an inner landscape of love and grief, restoring precious fragments of his own past.
'I would rather read Colin Thubron than any other travel writer alive' - John Simpson
50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY THE AUTHOR
Described by the author as simply 'a work of love', Mirror to Damascus provides a rich and fascinating history of Damascus from the Amorites of the Bible to the revolution of 1966, and is also a charming and witty personal record of an extraordinary city.
In explaining how modern Damascus is rooted in immemorial layers of culture and tradition, Colin Thubron explores the historical, artistic, social and religious inheritance of its people. Along the way, he shares unforgettable stories about the enterprising travellers of bygone days.
Mirror to Damascus is a unique portrait of a city now obscured by recent upheavals, by one of the most indefatigable and popular of travel writers.
For four months and five hundred miles Colin Thubron walked the mountains of Lebanon, following tracks and rivers. His journey was not only a survey of a remarkable country, but a quest for the gods and divinities who held the secrets of death and rebirth in the land's ancient cults.
He visited almost every place of cultural importance, and lived with the people along his way, recording a country of outstanding natural scenery, rich with a unique medley of races and religions.
The Hills of Adonis is both a travel book and a personal journal; for the quest is the search for meaning, a reflection on faith and reason and a poem on the joy and complexity of living.
Marco Polo set off on his travels from Venice as a young man in 1271, and returned home in 1295 after spending 24 years away, 17 of them in China. He isone of the few early adventurers whose name nearly everyone knows. His book was one of the best-loved works of the Middle Ages, and has remained popular ever since. At a time when China is again assuming global importance, his account of China under the Mongol emperor Khubilai Khan - the dazzlingly splendid capital in Beijing, the great southern metropolis of Hangzhou - is a classic reminder of the antiquity of Chinese power and civilization.
Marco Polo also portrays countries and cities all along the trade route from the Mediterranean to Mongolia. He reminds us that Iraq's present suffering is not unique by relating the story of the attack on Baghdad by Mongol forces in 1258. He conveys the daunting prospect of the deserts of central Asia and the distant charms of Yunnan. And he reminds us of the huge merchant ships dominating China's trade with foreign countries, ships that far outstripped their European counterparts. He even writes about Japan, the first European to do so.
His book was often thought of as a book of marvels, but one of its striking features to a contemporary reader is its clarity, realism and tolerance. As this new edition shows, he sometimes exaggerates, but his reputation for making things up is quite unfair, as Colin Thubron makes clear in his introduction.
The original manuscript of Marco Polo's book is lost, and in the many later versions names and other details have become so garbled that it has been said that his itineraries are impossible to follow. This new Everyman edition shows this need not be so. It explains clearly all the references in the book, and shows in detail with new maps the routes described from Venice to Beijing, from Beijing to Burma, and from Beijing to south-east China. It also provides an up-to-date history of the book and the controversies surrounding it.
This is the account of Thubron's 15,000-mile journey through an astonishing country - one twelfth of the land surface of the whole earth. He journeyed by train, river and truck among the people most damaged by the breakup of the Soviet Union, traveling among Buddhists and animists, radical Christian sects, reactionary Communists and the remnants of a so-call Jewish state; from the site of the last Czar's murder and Rasputin's village, to the ice-bound graves of ancient Sythians, to Baikal, deepest and oldest of the world's lakes.
It is the story of a people moving through the ruins of Communism into more private, diverse and often stranger worlds.
On buses, donkey carts, trains, jeeps and camels, Colin Thubron traces the drifts of the first great trade route out of the heart of China into the mountains of Central Asia, across northern Afghanistan and the plains of Iran into Kurdish Turkey.
Covering over 7000 miles in eight months Thurbron recounts extraordinary adventures - a near-miss with a drunk-driver, incarceration in a Chinese cell during the SARS epidemic, undergoing root canal treatment without anaesthetic in Iran - in inimitable prose.
Shadow of the Silk Road is about Asia today; a magnificent account of an ancient world in modern ferment.
Having learned Mandarin, and travelling alone by foot, bicycle and train, Colin Thubron set off on a 10,000 mile journey from Beijing to the borders of Burma. He travelled through the wind-swept wastes of the Gobi desert and finished at the far end of the Great Wall.
What Thubron reveals is an astonishing diversity, a land whose still unmeasured resources strain to meet an awesome demand, and an ancient people still reeling from the devastation of the Cultural Revolution.
To the Last City is set deep in the Peruvian Andes, where five ill-prepared travellers - men and women with different values, temperaments and motives - find themselves trekking through one of the most exacting and beautiful regions on earth.
It is a journey which may temper or destroy them. They confront not only their relationships with one another, but also the enigmas of the country's past, the dangers of its present, and the limitations of their own minds and bodies. The 'lost city' of their destination is Vilcabamba, last refuge of the Inca against the Spaniards, subsumed by jungle for four hundred years.
In this brilliant exploration of the psychological challenges of travelling, set within the exotic jungle of South America, Colin Thubron for the first time joins his highly acclaimed talents as a travel writer with his gifts as a novelist.
Colin Thubron is an acknowledged master of travel writing, and the winner of many prizes and awards. His first writing was about the Middle East - Damascus, Lebanon and Cyprus. In 1982 he travelled into the Soviet Union in an ancient Morris Marina, pursued by the KGB, a journey he recorded in Among the Russians. From these early experiences developed his classic travel books: Behind the Wall (winner of the Hawthornden Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Award), The Lost Heart of Asia, In Siberia (Prix Bouvier) and Shadow of the Silk Road (all available in Vintage). In 2010 Colin Thubron became President the Royal Society of Literature.