In this lively blend of history, biography, and travelogue, acclaimed author Laurence Bergreen separates myth from history, creating the most authoritative account yet of Polo’s remarkable adventures. Exceptionally narrated and written with a discerning eye for detail, Marco Polo is as riveting as the life it describes.
From Publishers Weekly
Even in his own day, the famed 13th-century travel writer Marco Polo was mocked as a purveyor of tall tales—gem-encrusted clothes, nude temple dancing girls, screaming tarantulas—in his narrative of his journey to the Chinese court of the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan. In this engrossing biography, Bergreen (James Agee: A Life
), while allowing that mere facts… were never enough for Marco, finds him a roughly accurate and perceptive witness (aside from the romantic embellishments and outright fabrications concocted with his collaborator Rustichello of Pisa) who painted an influential and unusually sympathetic portrait of the much-feared Mongols. Bergreen follows Polo’s disjointed commentary on everything from Chinese tax policy to asbestos manufacturing, crocodile hunting and Asian sexual mores—Polo was especially taken with the practice of sharing one’s wife with passing travelers—while deftly glossing it with scholarship. Less convincing is Bergreen’s attempt to add depth to Polo’s lurid taste and over-heated imagination by portraying him as both a prophet of globalization and a pilgrim and explorer of the spirit. Polo’s spiritual trek didn’t take him very far, since he ended his days back in Venice as a greedy, litigious merchant. Still, the result is a long, strange, illuminating trip. 16 pages of photos, 3 maps. (Oct. 25)
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Laurence Bergreen, the author of books about Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, James Agee, and Ferdinand Magellan, traveled Marco Polo’s route across Mongolia and China to conduct research for Marco Polo
. Part biography, part travelogue, and part scholarly analysis, the book offers a glimpse of an exotic Asia that few knew at the time—and that Bergreen, with his rich research and stories, mostly corroborates. Bergreen posits Polo as an early promoter of globalization, an open-minded traveler who adopted some of Kublai Khan’s philosophies and carried them back to Europe. If Bergreen sometimes succumbs to speculation (Polo’s egotism is well recorded, though his time in China is not), Marco Polo
will immortalize the famed traveler—again.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
“Sumptuous. . . . A full-blooded rendition of Polo’s astonishingh journey. . . . Richly researched and vividly conveyed.” —The Washington Post Book World“Fascinating. . . . Richly detailed and illuminating, a window into the most exotic of places and times.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer“As enthralling as a rollicking travel journal. . . . The world [Polo] encountered was stranger than any fable.” —The New York Times Book Review “With his polished, authoritative storytelling, Bergreen makes the world of Marco Polo very permanent.” —Entertainment Weekly