: Marco polo: from venice to xanadu (9781400043453) : Laurence Bergreen : Books
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Marco Polo: From Venice To Xanadu

by Laurence Bergreen
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Knopf
  • Publishing date: 23/10/2007
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781400043453
  • ISBN: 140004345x


As the most celebrated European to explore Asia, Marco Polo was the original global traveler and the earliest bridge between East and West. A universal icon of adventure and discovery, he has inspired six centuries of popular fascination and spurious mythology. Now, from the acclaimed author of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (“Superb . . . A first-rate historical page turner”—The New York Times)—comes the first fully authoritative biography of one of the most enchanting figures in world history. In this masterly work, Marco Polo’s incredible odyssey—along the Silk Road and through all the fantastic circumstances of his life—is chronicled in sumptuous and illuminating detail.

We meet him as a callow young man, the scion of a wealthy Venetian merchant family, only seventeen when he sets out in 1271 with his father and uncle on their journey to Asia. We see him gain the confidence of Kublai Khan, the world’s most feared and powerful leader, and watch him become a trusted diplomat and intelligence agent in the ruler’s inner circle. We are privy to his far-flung adventures on behalf of the Khan, living among the Mongols and other tribes, and traveling to magical cities, some far advanced over the West. We learn the customs of the Khan’s court, both erotic and mercantile, and Polo’s uncanny ability to adapt to them. We follow him on his journey back to Venice, laden with riches, the latest inventions, and twenty-four years’ worth of extraordinary tales.

And we see his collaboration with the famed writer Rustichello of Pisa, who immediately saw in Polo the story of a lifetime; enlivened by his genius for observation, Polo’s tales needed little embellishment. Recorded by Rustichello as the two languished as prisoners of war in a Genoese jail, the Travels would explode the notion of non-Europeans as untutored savages and stand as the definitive description of China until the nineteenth century.

Drawing on original sources in more than half a dozen languages, and on his own travels along Polo’s route in China and Mongolia, Bergreen explores the lingering controversies surrounding Polo’s legend, settling age-old questions and testing others for significance. Synthesizing history, biography, and travelogue, this is the timely chronicle of a man who extended the boundaries of human knowledge and imagination. Destined to be the definitive account of its subject for decades to come, Marco Polo takes us on a journey to the limits of history—and beyond.

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  • An exotic jouney to the orient
    From Amazon

    What an Excellent Read !!!!!!!!!! history, travelogue, adventure, biography ...................... totally fascinating,

    The new revelations on the life, times and travel of Marco, his father and uncle are mind boggling. Based on recent research, it turned out Marco wasn't just a b.s.'ing Venetian after all.

    From the great naval battle of Korcula to Marco's final days, this bio/adventure is hard to put down. The history involved, from the "Divine Wind" to Marco's visits to south east asia, india, socotra island .......... history of the great mongol empire, life and times of Kublai Khan, glimpses of the early christian church, voyages, intrepid travellers ....................... it is all here !!

    excellent read, rabbie b.

  • Great material, but flawed delivery
    From Amazon

    A thoroughly researched account of a fascinating life. You could spend a lifetime going through the sources in the book's notes & bibliography, and the book inspires you to do just that. However, it's marred by Bergreen's writing style. His comments after quoted material-- and there is, rightly, a LOT of quoted material-- are often superfluous and give the unpleasant impression of reading a book report. A very well-researched book report, but a book report nonetheless. Still, a good launching point to learn more about an intriguing chapter in history.

  • lost in translation
    From Amazon

    Having just read Laurence Bergreen's "Over the edge of the world", I couldn't wait to read his new work on the travels of "Marco Polo" Mr. Bergreen is a stickler for accuracy and research. I think he spends more time researching than writing. This is an excellent account of Marco's adventures and experiences traveling along and beyond The Silk Road. My only criticism is that in trying to be so factual some of the passages were difficult for me to understand. Maybe it is the translation from Medieval Italian to English. As of now, I'm just waiting for Mr. Bergreen's next book.

  • Marco Polo
    From Amazon

    MARCO POLO: FROM VENICE TO XANADU BY LAURENCE BERGREEN: Laurence Bergreen, whose last book, Over the Edge of the World, charted Magellan's circumnavigation of the world, returns with a fresh and thorough biography on the remarkable and renowned thirteenth century traveler, Marco Polo. Marco Polo begins in a style that is becoming modern with biographies such as Caroline Alexander's Bounty, near the end of Marco Polo's life when he is a renowned traveler of noble stature and wealth; this makes the return to Polo's younger life as an inexperienced person all the more poignant.

    Marco Polo was not the first to feel the urge and thrill to travel the world; it was an experience and almost expectation instilled within his family for some time. At the age of seventeen, barely a man, Marco Polo began his first journey with his father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo bound for the court of Kublai Khan in 1271. While the focus of the book is on Polo's time spent with the Great Khan, Bergreen spends time details sights and experiences on the Polos' travels across the known world to China where Marco became a personal advisor to Kublai Khan in 1275. Marco then spent almost twenty years in service to the Khan, traveling the many surrounding countries and gathering intelligence and acting as a tax collector for the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty. It is here that we see through Marco's eyes and how he views this world that is greatly different to the one he was used to in Venice: from Asbestos manufacture, to crocodile hunting, to the sexual habits of the different peoples; the practice of offering up one's wife to passing travelers was one that greatly perplexed and put Marco ill at ease.

    While the book does cover Marco Polo's life, Bergreen seems almost hesitant to offer commentary of opinion on the Polo's habits, ideas, and reactions. Nevertheless, Marco Polo is a fascinating read into the life of the often misunderstood Venetian.


  • The Ultimate Accidental Tourist
    From Amazon

    While this appears to be a biography of the history's most famous traveler, it is actually a guide to understanding Polo's adventures. While Bergreen gives us the portrait of the man, the exotic adventures and their time in history loom much larger.

    Several times I have begun reading the "Adventures" but never got into them, getting lost in the stilted prose. Here, Bergreen has sifted through the "Adventures" and delivered their essence while enriching the reader by descriptions of the life and character of Marco Polo.

    Bergreen advises on what is and might not be literal. He comments on Polo's youth and how his world view changes as he matures on this trip. He discusses the various renderings of the Polo story and discusses how cynically the travels were received at the time and how over many years, they (and Polo) grew in stature.

    Interestingly, Marco's father and uncle, having made the first voyage, have an even greater tale to tell. Since their story was not committed to writing, the hows and wheres of their first trip are lost to history and it is Marco who is the celebrated traveler.

    After reading this book, I realized I had read another Bergreen biography, Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life which is a very good book on a widely different personality in a wildy different era.

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