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The Collector of Worlds: A Novel of Sir Richard Francis Burtonby Iliya Troyanov
Synopses & Reviews
This fictionalized account imagines the life of Sir Richard Francis Burton—a nineteenth-century British colonial officer with a rare ability to assimilate into indigenous cultures. Burton's obsessive traveling took him from England to British India, Arabia, and on a quest for the source of the Nile River in Africa. He learned more than twenty lan­guages, translated The Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra, and took part in the pilgrimage to Mecca, in addition to writing several travel books.
This elegant, layered novel tells the story of Burton's adventures in British West India, his experience on the hajj to Mecca, and his exploration of East Africa. In each section, perspective shifts between Burton and the voices of those men he encounters along the way: his Indian servant tells the stories of his travails with Burton to a scribe; the qadi, the governor, and the shari in Mecca investigate Burton's hajj; and Sidi Mubarak Bombay, his African guide, shares his story with friends in Zanzibar. The concentric narratives examine the underbelly of colonialism while offering a breathtaking tour of the nineteenth century's most stunning landscapes.
The Collector of Worlds won the fiction prize of Germany's Leipzig Book Fair in 2006 and the Berlin Literary Award, in addition to being a runaway bestseller in Germany.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“Iliya Troyanov has turned
The Collector of Worlds is a fictionalized account of the infamous life and times of Sir Richard Francis Burton—the British colonial officer stationed in
About the Author
Born in Bulgaria, Iliya Troyanov has lived in Germany, Kenya, India, and South Africa. He has written several novels as well as travelogues on Africa, India, and Bulgaria. His Along the Ganges was included in Condé Nast Traveler's list of the best travelogues ever. Troyanov lives in Vienna, Austria.
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