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A Ride to Khiva Paperback – 28 Nov 2002
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About the Author
Frederick Gustavus Burnaby was a soldier, traveller, writer, and pioneer balloonist. He was reputed to be the strongest man in the British Army, and spoke no fewer than seven languages. In 1875, on a one-man Great Game mission, he rode to Khiva in Central Asia, and the following year set out from Constantinople for eastern Turkey. In 1885 he was speared to death while campaigning in the Sudan, where he is buried somewhere in the desert.
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All the books in the box looked at least 100 years old.
I picked one at random to "leaf through" just out of casual interest.
After one paragraph I was hooked and my amazement and amusement increased with every chapter.
The book was "A Ride To Khiva" - what a find!
Until I researched more I had no idea this book was such a recognised classic.
Not only classic adventure but also a Mr Burnaby is an extremely amiable companion - frequently amusing and occasionaly side-splittingly funny.
I came across this remarkable tale of adventure entirely by accident and am so glad I did - please take my advice and get stuck in as soon as possible!
His vigorous colourful writing style had already attracted attention and he had written several newspaper articles. "A Ride to Khiva" is articulate, straightforward, and lacking in self-aggrandizement. Burnaby has a great eye for detail, ear for cadence of language and a nice sense of humour. You get a clear impression of someone who would have been a great companion, a man with a contagious zest for life.
Burnaby sometimes reflects the now politically incorrect prejudices and views of the British Empire at its height. The Russians might be devious, untrustworthy blighters, but at least they are white Europeans, by Jove. White European superiority is not in doubt. This is the period when the philosophy of The White Man's Burden was widely accepted in Britain; the concept that white people have a duty of care to rule over less fortunate peoples from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Accordingly Burnaby will occasionally come out with remarks which seem outrageous to us but wouldn't have raised an eyebrow at the time, like this: "Were the authorities in Turkistan, acquired by Russia in recent years, afraid of letting Europe know that instead of raising the level of morality amidst the inhabitants of central Asia, the latter had in many instances brought the Russians down to an Oriental level, and that the vices and depraved habits of the East were actually being acquired by some of the conquerors?"
On the other hand he's clearly an intelligent man and well able to make perspicacious and sometimes prophetic assessments about the situation in Central Asia. Here he speaks about Russia's future: "It is several years since the serfs were emancipated, but the men who have been brought up as slaves find it difficult to get rid of the feeling of awe when in the presence of their superiors. Perhaps it is better that things follow in this groove. It would be a bitter day for Russia should the socialistic and nihilistic tendencies which are being developed in her larger towns become extended among her rural population". He did get it sadly wrong though when he suggested that Germany was a more natural ally for Britain than Russia could ever be.
It's easy to see why Burnaby's record of his adventurous travels has been reprinted so many times. It's a unique account of a particular time, place and world view, told with vivid immediacy. Burnaby wrote a sequel called "On Horseback Through Asia Minor", in which he recounted his 1876 journey from Constantinople into Asia to see what the Turks and Russians were up to, but he allows anti-Russian propaganda greater rein in the second book and "A Ride to Khiva" is generally acknowledged as being the more readable of the two.
Recommended companion reading - "Frederick Burnaby, 'the bravest man in England'", an informative and entertaining article at the "Great British Nutters" blogsite
A situation like this fitted perfectly the kind of “investigative reporting” adventures that Frederick Burnaby craved. In 1876, this 33-year-old captain in the British army took leave of absence, and set out for Khiva. The journey involved a ride of over one thousand miles in well below freezing conditions across steppes and wastelands.
On his return, Burnaby wrote “A Ride to Khiva” and it instantly became a best seller. A well-educated man, proficient in many languages, and a keen observer of all he encountered, his account still ranks as one of the great adventure classics of literature.
I am grateful to the neighbor who lent me this book, and can report that reading it has provided many hours of fascination. Burnaby died ten years after writing this book, supposedly during a massacre in the Sudan. Keen Internet browsers might find reference to a recent revelation that throws doubt upon the truth of the official account of his death.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
My only issue was with the disgraceful formatting for kindle which has resulted in split words and paragraphs in the air!