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Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorerby Alexander Maitland
Synopses & Reviews
Wilfred Thesiger (1910-2003), the last of the great gentlemen explorer-adventurers, journeyed for sixty years to some of the remotest, most dangerous places on earth from the mountains of western Asia to the marshes of Iraq. The author of Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs and The Life of my Choice, he was a legend in his own lifetime but his character and motivations have remained an intriguing enigma.
In this authorized biography--written with Thesiger’s support before he died in 2003 and with unique access to the rich Thesiger archive--Alexander Maitland investigates this fascinating figure’s family influences, his wartime experiences, his philosophy as a hunter and conservationist, his writing and photography, his friendships with Arabs and Africans amongst whom he lived, and his now-acknowledged homosexuality.
"It's the inner journey that resonates most in this sweeping biography of a late exemplar of the British yen for exotic self-exile. Wilfred Thesiger (1910 — 2003), best known for epic crossings of Arabia's Empty Quarter along with classic travel memoirs and photos of his sojourns in the Middle East and Africa, was a rather minor explorer of an already well-surveyed 20th-century globe. What he sought was less a specific destination than backward tribal societies still imbued with the kind of 'barbaric splendor... savagery and color' that was fast dying out in the machine age. (He did discover and attach himself to a string of handsome tribal youths and eventually developed a sideline in adolescent circumcisions.) Maitland (Speke and the Discovery of the Source of the Nile), Thesiger's longtime friend and editor, serves up a vivid account of his adventures and a perceptive portrait of a complex man — ebullient hunter, repressed homosexual, man's man, and spiritual seeker who hoped that desert sand would scour clean his soul. The narrative is a ramble; as one Thesiger trek swirls into the next, it becomes clear that his life story isn't really going anywhere. Still, the scenery is magnificent, and Thesiger makes for a charismatic travel companion. Photos. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
ALEXANDER MAITLAND was a close friend of Thesiger for forty years. He edited Thesiger’s anthology, My Life and Travels and helped produce Thesiger’s My Kenya Days: The Danakil Diary. He is the author of biographies of Freya Stark and John Hanning Speke.
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