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My Life as an Explorer [Hardcover]

Sven Hedin
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Jan 2007
This is an autobiography by the famous trans-himalayan explorer Sven Hedin, a native of Sweden, who has his name written in bold in the role of explorers of central Asia and Tibet. His long career lasted many decades and his pen turned out many classics of exploration like "Trans Himalayan", "Southern Tibet", "Riddles of the Gobi Desert", "Through Asia", "Journey through Persia, Mesopotamia and Caucasus", "Central Asia and Tibet", etcetera. Born in 1865, he commenced his career in 1885-86 when he travelled through Persia and Mesopotamia. Since then he was almost always on expedition, resting of a couple of years to write and then setting off again. He became a Swedish noble in 1902 and was knighted by the English king in 1909. In 1923 he travelled around the world through the United States, Mongolia and Russia. This book is a reprint of the 1929 edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 68 pages
  • Publisher: Asian Educational Services,India; Facsimile of 1926 ed edition (18 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8120610571
  • ISBN-13: 978-8120610576
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 18.3 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,711,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"No syllable is wasted...each sentence is as vibrant as the lilt of a Norse saga." -The New York Times"An account of an astonishing number of adventures...and of perils, a tithe of which would satisfy most men." -New York Tribune --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

SVEN HEDIN was born in Sweden, educated in Germany, and spent much of his life roaming Central Asia. He spoke seven languages, published more than fifty books, and won honors and acclaim around the globe. He died in 1952 at the age of 87. PETER HOPKIRK is the author of five popular histories involving Central Asia, including The Great Game, Trespassers on the Roof of the World, and Setting the East Ablaze (all available from Kodansha Globe). He lives in London. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Life as an Explorer 7 Jan 2003
By Linda
Close to brilliant!
Xinjiang now has, alas, lost some of its romantic aura, and Hedin's book is one of the few ways to feel it even in modern world.
I'd recommend the book not only to those interested in China, Tibet or Asia at large but also to those who delight in adventure. In this book Hedin has not so much dwelled upon his really great geographical or archeological input than in a surprisingly light and interesting way - and language - told about the region, its people and nature as well as shown his daredevil side in bending and breaking the laws he wouldn't comply with.
However, I do not recommend the book to people who truly love animals. It gets difficult somewhere at the middle of the book to read on to the next adventure knowing that the biggest part of horses, donkeys and camels will not reach the goal but fall dead because of cold or thirst.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Little-Known but Gripping Tale! 21 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I 'm ashamed to say I knew next to nothing about Sven Hedin - even though I am (very distantly) related to him! What comes to life in these pages is a vastly energetic and driven character - and the tales of his travels and discoveries are as revealing of the place and time as they are of the man himself. He brings vividly to life a period and an atmosphere now lost in the past - but with great significance to present and future poitics.
(Try reading this in conjumction with "The Great Game" by Peter Hopkirk telling the more-or-less contemporaneous history of the 'Great Powers'involvement in Central Asia)
Completely fascinating - and I am looking forward to reading more of his journeys. Can't help feeling that given his many flaws (admiration for Hitler, for one well-known example) that there is, nonetheless, a great man - and possibly a great film - hidden away in here!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to Hedin's works. 30 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a recollection of memories from Hedin's early journeys and expeditions across the Middle East and the Asian continent.
On the first few chapters, Hedin explains how he became a geographer and felt somewhat in love with the vast Asian continent. Such feeling developed an everlasting desire to explore what was, in his days, an unknown land to Europeans. A land that needed to be surveyed and mapped thoroughly.
After Hedin makes it clear on what it is driving him to travel back and forth thru Asia, he writes what it is (in my humble opinion) a compelling story on each of his journeys spanning from 1885 to 1909.New geographical discoveries, all sort of toils and hardships, men and animals perishing on the way, landscapes of indescribable beauty, all of these and much more is the sort of material you will encounter while reading this. An adventure book, but in the form of real deeds, people and places. No place for fiction here, that's what makes this book worth your while.

On a side note I must add that, having read previous Hedin's works, I noticed a vast majority of the accounts have been shortened to fit it into one book. So I would suggest this book to those ones who have never read anything on Hedin's expeditions. I think it is a very good introduction to him.
As for myself, I felt the book to be hastily written at times. I suppose it was for the sake of having to fit everything into one book, as I said. It is just because of that I'm giving it 4 out of 5.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Michael
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In the last week or two Amazon have changed their search filters to ensure that, sorted by relevance alone, one of the most expensive versions of this book (around $25) comes up first, while the cheapest is nowhere in sight, even after many pages and sorting by cheapest price. However, the identical book can be obtained for around $2.50 second hand by adding national geographic to your search entry (it's part of their fine classics of exploration series).

As for the book itself, others have described it well enough, but I think I should emphasize that from the standpoint of the 21st century, Hedin's work can at times seem boastful and self-aggrandizing. Also, the rate at which Hedin went through both animals and men is quite disturbing. The high rate of 'staff turnover' was a chronic problem in the Hedin camp, and one wonders how he still managed to find men ready and willing to accompany him. A regular pattern is established quite early on in the book, whereby Hedin first recounts the number of men, horses, camels or cattle he acquires, then describes the journey itself while counting down the number and species of animals which die every day. Camels in the snow and horses in the desert? No problem, even at 2 or 3 deaths a day, when you have 60 animals you can calculate how many days you need at that death rate, and still reach your destination. And in poverty stricken regions there were always men ready and willing to risk their lives for money...

Mohammed Shah and Yolchi had lived relatively uneventful lives in Central Asia. Then along comes Sven Hedin, hires them, and within 3 weeks they're dead of thirst in the middle of the desert. Karim and Islam Bai are lucky to get away with near-death experiences.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best journal of exploration I have ever read 24 Jun 1999
By NDylanRay@aol.com - Published on Amazon.com
Sven Hedin's "My Life as an Explorer" is an exceptional work. Stylistically situated somewhere in between scholarly works such as those by Aurel Stein and pure "adventure for its own sake" works such as those by Thesiger, Hedin's explorations are astounding and wonderful stories. His bravery and thirst for adventure are unmatched--he seems to have a total inability to turn back from his goals. Yet the goals are noble, and his methods meticulous and scholarly, so one is not left with the impression that he is simply a daredevil seeking thrills. He singlehandedly filled in, in a fairly detailed manner, one of the last white spaces of "terra incognita" on the map of the world.
At certain moments in the book, especially (in my opinion) the discussions of the Lama Rinpoche, who vows to remain walled inside his cave for his entire life, Hedin's narrative reaches the heights of great literature, placing his work, I believe, among the greatest travel or exploration writings ever produced.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Great Explorer 9 April 2005
By Smallchief - Published on Amazon.com
The Swede Sven Hedin was the last great explorer we will see on this well-traveled planet. Hedin was born in 1865 and this autobiography describes his life up until 1908. Hedin's career was hardly finished, however, as he continued to traipse down the old Silk Road in Central Asia until the 1930s when he was 70 years old.

In a happy trait that should be copied by more auto-biographers, Hedin doesn't spend much time on his childhood. By the third page of his narrative he is 20 years old and off to the Caucasus Mountains which only whets his appetite for the little-known peaks and deserts of Tibet and Central Asia. He spent the years between 1893 and 1908 exploring these regions and filling in blank places on the map.

National Geographic's "Traveler" magazine put this book on its list of 100 best adventure books and, truly, the tales of Hedin's adventures make for good, exciting reading. Hedin displays both charm and generosity in his account. He traveled without the company of other Europeans and he enjoyed the companionship of his local helpers and the dogs he adopted along his way. He draws many clever portraits of the people he met in his travels. Hedin, however, was no mere adventurer. He was a serious, sober scholar who produced dozens of scientific studies of his findings.

One of the most hair raising tales in the book concerns Hedin's first expedition into the sands of the Takla Makhan (desert) of China in which he and his companions nearly died of thirst. A second high point of the book is the account of his attempt to visit Lhasa, the forbidden capital of Tibet. He failed after getting nearly to the gates of the city and was denied the honor of becoming the first foreigner to visit Lhasa in half a century. Amidst the plethora of adventures, the stoic Swede brushes over incidents others would consider high -- or low -- points of their lives. "Fever kept me in Kashgar a long while" is his complete description of one serious illness.

The book is illustrated with many of Hedin's drawings, including his hand drawn maps. I suggest that you read the book with a good modern map at hand so as to trace his routes with more precision as his constant tooing-and-froing can be confusing.

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written, great adventure book 28 Nov 2003
By jdwyer - Published on Amazon.com
(This refers to the National Geographic Reprint edition)
This is truly a great book, full of the amazing adventures of an incredible explorer. You have to admire Hedin's determination and stubborness, although sometimes I wonder about his planning. It seems like every trip all his animals die, and the men are on the verge of starvation. And as for his trips in the desert, I would have thought the concept of "take some extra water" would have occured at some point!
Hedin is a fine writer, and his descriptions are not only accessible to the average reader, but often quite poetic as well.
Nevertheless, I only reluctantly give this a full 5 stars, because I feel that National Geographic missed a great opportunity to make this an almost perfect book, and it wouldn't have been that difficult to do. As a previous reviewer mentioned, some good maps could have helped. There's almost no excuse for NG not to have included some decent maps of Central Asia in their edition. Furthermore, one tends to forget (although Hedin mentions in the text), that he also took photographs on many of his travels. These might have been included as well. (To see some, refer to the Photos section of the website of the Sven Hedin Foundation, "[...]"). Aside from the simplistic drawings that are included, Hedin also did many detailed sketches and potraits on his travels. Now one can assume that none of these were included in the original, and this is only a reprint, but nevertheless, it is a missed opportunity. The introductory chapter by A.Brandt also adds little insight, and might as well have been left out as well.
However, despite the lost opportunities, this book is highly recommended.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Adventure Story Like No Other 14 Feb 2002
By K. Floy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a tale wonderfully told of an explorer's quest to fill in the blank spots on the map of Asia. Not only does Hedin present a clear and highly entertaining view of his travels, but he also gives us a portrait of his character. He shows us that he is a man with high goals and is undeterred in achieving those goals, even when all odds are against him. He shows us that he is also a very caring man, very much concerned about the welfare of his men and his animals. He also is a man that is awestruck by nature and is very concerned about not unduly intruding upon it or unnecessarily destroying it.
But most of all, this is an adventure story that is just plain fun to read.
A suggestion to readers who are not very familiar with the geography of central Asia would be to have on hand some good maps as the ones Hedin draws are quite limited and often fail to give the perspective that may be desireable.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best travel book I have read too. 13 Aug 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I concur with NDylanRay@aol.com. This book is exceptional. I could hardly put it down. You feel the excitement and intensity of his adventures, you begin to understand the force that drives him (and you respect him for it), and you meet the people and the places that make Turkestan and Tibet 100 years ago like no place that you could ever imagine.
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