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Authors on location – Colin Thubron

24th February 2018

#AuthorsOnLocation – COLIN THUBRON

For some writers location is as integral to their story-telling as plot or character. TripFiction takes a look at some of these authors, for whom a sense of place has helped to define their literary output. For the tenth in the series we have chosen Colin Thubron.

Born in 1939, Colin Gerald Dryden Thubron is both a travel writer and a novelist, though it is for his deeply insightful travel-related output – usually from Russia, the Middle East or the Far East – that he is undoubtedly best known.

Educated at Eton College, Colin spent 5 years in publishing before his first ‘travel book’ – Mirror to Damascus – was published in 1967. He has said that he was inspired by, amongst other influences, the travel writing of Patrick Leigh Fermor and Jan Morris, both the subject of other articles in TripFiction’s #AuthorsOnLocation series.

Mirror to Damascus – historical travelogue set in Damascus

Described by the author as simply ‘a work of love’, Mirror to Damascus provides an enthralling and fascinating history of Damascus from the Amorites of the Bible to the revolution of 1966, as well a being a charming and witty personal record of a city well-loved.

In explaining how modern Damascus is rooted in immemorable layers of culture and tradition, Colin Thubron explores the historical, artistic, social and religious inheritance of the Damascenes in an amusing and perceptive manner, whilst interspersing the narrative with innumerable anecdotes about travellers of bygone days.

Colin ThubronShadow of the Silk Road – travelogue set in Central Asia, Iran and Turkey

Through northern China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, then through Iran and into Turkey, Thubron travels away from the tourist trails, into the heartlands of the countries – the Gobi Desert, the lyrical descriptions of the mountain ranges…a 7,000 mile journey.

Behind the Wall – travelogue set in China

Having learned Mandarin, and travelling alone by foot, bicycle and train, the author 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.

The Lost Heart of Asia – travelogue set in Central Asia

The author travelled throughout Central Asia in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union and documented the widespread social upheaval in a region reeling from political change.

Thubron is an inspirational writer, intrepid traveller and insightful observer and his The Lost Heart of Asia is an outstanding guide to the history, people and culture of a vast region, resonating with history and politics.

To the Last City – novel set in Peru

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.

In Siberia – travelogue set in Siberia

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.

To a Mountain in Tibettravelogue set in Nepal, The Himalayas & Tibet

When the final member of Colin Thubron’s family dies, he finds himself needing to mark their departure. Thubron’s recollections on loss, memory, and aging blend with dazzling prose on walking and traveling from Nepal, into Tibet, and to the lakes below the slopes of Mount Kailas.

To a Mountain in Tibet is an act of defiance. Of how, in the face of hopelessness, to carry on.

Andrew for the TripFiction team

Previous #AuthorsOnLocation:

Graham Greene

Robert Harris

Dan Brown

Paul Theroux

Patrick Leigh Fermor

William Dalrymple

Bruce Chatwin

Dervla Murphy

Jan Morris

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