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The Collector of Worlds Paperback – 3 Jul 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Paperback, 3 Jul 2008
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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Export ed edition (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571243614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571243617
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 2.5 x 17.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Mesmerizing...the perfect present for wannabe explorers."--National Geographic Traveler Online --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

The Collector of Worlds by Iliya Troyanov is a colourful swashbuckling story of Sir Richard Burton, one of the most flamboyant characters of the nineteenth century. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When a book opens with a single cinematic sweep, moving from Sir Richard Burton death through the reluctant giving of last rites, to a sharp focus on a burning photograph of the 22-year-old Richard Burton that pulls you into his 1840's Bombay, you know you are in for a treat. This book is The Collector of Worlds by Iliya Troyanov just published in the UK translated by William Hobson but originally published in Germany in 2006. The book is not a Biography, History or a novel but a biographical fiction meaning as the author says that the live and works of Sir Richard Burton inspired him because all

...individual lives are mysterious, particularly those of people one had never met. This Novel is intended as personal approach to a mystery rather than as an attempt at definitive revelation.

This approach shapes the unusual structure of the novel. It is divided into three sections: first is Burton's service in India in 1842-49, second is his travels in disguise to Mecca and Medina as a pilgrim on the hajj (1851-53)and concludes with his journey from Zanzibar to Lake Tanganyika in 1858 as he attempted to discover with a fellow explorer the source of the Nile. So we don't know his life before or after this period or even during this period when away from waving the Flag.

In each section, Burton's reveals his thoughts through a third-person monologue whilst other narrators offer context or even contrasting views. Burton acts as the antagonist to these characters where as his is the culture or landscape of India, Arabia and Africa. In the Indian section, these others are Lahiya, a professional letter-writer, to whom Burton's one-time servant Naukaram goes to have his story written up, in the hope of gaining further employment.
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Format: Hardcover
Troyanov does a very good job at pointing the reader to Burton's innerlife, but he also allows one to draw one's own conclusions.This book, which is grounded in the historical record, offers a much more resonant sounding of this remarkable man than the usual biographies which get caught in the surface patina of Burton's "outer" story.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel is about three episodes in the life of that fascinating 19th century character, Sir Richard Burton (1821 to 1890), soldier, amateur anthropologist and explorer.

The first, which takes up about half the book, covers his life as a soldier in India (1842 to 1859). Thoroughly bored by the routine and by the narrow vision of his fellow officers, he first began learning several of India's native languages, and then took pride in his ability to disguise himself as an Indian so as to be able to mingle with them and get closer to understanding their way of life. Initially, when he was stationed in Baroda, he studied the Hindus; but when he was moved to Muslim Sindh, he became particularly fascinated by Islam. The conqueror of Sindh, General Napier, got Burton to use his skills to gather intelligence for him; but Burton thought the General's wish to impose British values on the natives wrong and counter-productive. This made him unreliable in the opinion of the army and would block any promotion. He left India and the Army.

The second part covers his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1853, disguised as Sheikh Abdullah and having made himself so perfectly familiar with the theory and practice of Islam that nobody penetrated his disguise; and the Muslim world was duly shocked when on his return he published an account of this experience. This part of the story gives a vivid account of such a pilgrimage - the dangers of attacks by plunderers, the fulfilment when the goal has been finally reached, but also the sickness and death that was the fate of so many exhausted pilgrims.

The third part covers Burton's expedition of 1857, together with his colleague and rival, John Hanning Speke, to find the source of the Nile.
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Format: Hardcover
This was an extra book, read by the Round the World Book Group in Edinburgh, after copies were presented to each member of the group by the Goethe Institute in Glasgow. It is a fictionalised account of the life of Sir Richard Burton, the Victorian explorer and linguist. The book opens with the death of Sir Richard. His widow instructs the Italian gardener to burn Sir Richard's diary and chronicles.

The sight of the burning diary then morphs into a scene of suttee as a dead woman burns. This is the first thing seen by the young Richard Burton when he arrives in Mumbai, the city we know better by its Portuguese name, Bom Bahia, mispronounced by the English speaking world as Bombay. As Burton lands in Mumbai, named after the goddess of the fishermen, we are straight into the sights, the sounds, and particularly the smells of the squalid, filthy dock and shore area.

We have already had an inkling of Burton's great passion for languages since he has spent time on the four month sail from the UK learning vocabulary from the Hindustani servants on the ship. A man called Naukaram seems to have been Burton's head servant. He is dictating Burton's story to a scribe. There is good interplay between the two.

Naukaram's story is interspersed with sections where we see life directly as Burton experienced it. Naukaram dictates and, because the scribe is dissatisfied about the gaps in Naukaram's version, he begins to make up and distort. Is all historical record twisted in that way?

The section at the top of page 140 (Faber and Faber paperback) about Indians gaining respect for themselves, and then losing it for their colonial "masters" reminds me of the present (2012) political system in Scotland when the Scots seem to have begun, finally, to believe in themselves.
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