Synopses & Reviews
Marco Polos account of his journey throughout the East in the thirteenth century was one of the earliest European travel narratives, and it remains the most important. The merchant-traveler from Venice, the first to cross the entire continent of Asia, provided us with accurate descriptions of life in China, Tibet, India, and a hundred other lands, and recorded customs, natural history, strange sights, historical legends, and much more. From the dazzling courts of Kublai Khan to the perilous deserts of Persia, no book contains a richer magazine of marvels than the Travels.
This edition, selected and edited by the great scholar Manuel Komroff, also features the classic and stylistically brilliant Marsden translation, revised and corrected, as well as Komroffs Introduction to the 1926 edition.
Marco Polo the Venetian traveled throughout the Far East in the 13th-Century, discovering all manner of advanced wonders of art and technology unknown to Europeans, and serving as Kubla Khan's trusted advisor and ambassador. When he returned to Venice after a 25 year absence, no one believed his tales. Dictated in prison, his Travels is one of the earliest European travel tales and remains a "thrilling story of what even in our day is still the land of wonder."
About the Author
Jason Goodwins books include A Time for Tea: Travels Through China and India in Search of Tea; On Foot to the Golden Horn: A Walk to Istanbul; and Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire.
Reading Group Guide
1. Though many of his contemporaries doubted the veracity of his story, Marco Polos account of his travels was widely read and discussed in medieval times, and went on to become the most influential and popular travel narrative ever written. What do you think accounts for its popularity and historical importance?
2. Why did Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle embark upon their journey? What did they hope to accomplish? What did they actually accomplish?
3. What qualities made Marco Polo an ideal traveler and narrator?
4. What do you think accounted for Marco Polos success as an advisor, administrator, and diplomat in the government of Kublai Khan? What can you discern about Marco Polo the man from his writings?
5. What sort of impression did Kublai Khan make on Marco Polo? How does Marco Polo describe him?
6. Some of the marvels Marco Polo encountered in his travels through the East were completely unknown in the Europe of his time. These include paper money, the Imperial postal system, crocodiles, and coconuts. What other interesting and peculiar phenomena did Marco Polo discover during his travels?
7. Discuss the general features of Chinese society and culture as described by Marco Polo. How did this culture compare to the Europe of Marco Polos day? To other cultures and civilizations that you are familiar with?