The Travels of Marco Poloby Published 01 Dec 1961
|The Travels of Marco Polo.pdf|
|Format||Mass Market Paperback|
|Publisher||Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated|
His pilgrimage through the East began in 1271 when, still a teenager, he found himself traversing the most exotic lands-from the dazzling Mongol empire to Tibet and Burma. This fascinating chronicle still serves as the most vivid depiction of the mysterious East in the Middle Ages.
The Travels of Marco Polo Reviews
Well Marco and his family really had some great adventures. Some of them might be a bit exaggerated but none the less he did shed a great light on little known areas of the world, especially China or Cathay as they called it then. The people of Europe could not imagine that they were not the most civilized people on earth. They scarcely bathed and went about in ragged clothes while the people of the Orient made a fetish of bathing and wore clothes made of gold. The Khans were worshipped and obeyed to such an extent that the word kowtow came into existence due to their culture. Of course this was a very short version and was not written by Marco, but it gave me an idea of the life Marco led.
I've been wanting to read this for a long time. Proabably because Marco Polo is one of my many historical heroes/alter egos. He is right up there with Laura Ingalls Wilder on my childhood favorite people scale. I used to snatch every book about those two in every library I ever visited. Obviously, I respect adventurers.
Anyway... I told myself I'd read the real thing when I grew up. I'm 18 now, so I guessed it was time. I had heard that Polo spends remarkably little time describing his own adventures. His purpose in the book is to describe the places he saw and people he meant. It is kind of like a 13th century Fodor's if you will. Seeing as it was supposedly more travel guide than novel, I was worried that I'd get bored without serious plot to hold things together.
I was actually amazed by how entertaining it was. Okay, I won't lie. There were definitely repetative bits of culture and geographic explanations that I skimmed. But the majority of the descriptions are so rich and intriguing, that I stayed hooked. My favorite parts were the legends and history that he weaves into his descriptions.
The most striking thing was the way he describes ordinary things that he had no vocabulary for, like crocodiles, rhinos, and coconuts. It made me appreciate how truly fascinating and magical our wonderful earth is. People called him the man of a million lies, and his descriptions do make everything sound fantastical. Then you realize he is talking about a giraffe or a coconut... hmmm that actually makes sense! It makes me want to run around my neighborhood describing the world with a limited vocabulary. I feel like sometimes I forget the wonder behind truly unbelievable natural phenomena by just placing words on them and moving on.
good sides-very detailed description of every single place Marco polo visited and interesting insight about the life of the inhabitants of the cities and villages he has visited. These are the things I would never read in my history books at school or university.
bad sides-I gotta say this book took me a really long time to finish since it was boring. if you are not a history major(and I'm not) or are not extremely interested in history you won't find this book that interesting. It's written on a very technical and dull manner and there is nothing to look forward to while reading it. There is no exact story line and most of the descriptions are repetitive(such as: they have a peculiar language and they obey the Great Khan). The interesting stuff mostly is in second and third book, and the afterword.
However, this is a great way to learn about old civilizations from the first hand, from a real traveler. If you just want to be a well rounded person, this is worth reading.
My review is based on the Signet Classics edition published in 1961, edited by Milton Rugoff. The translation he used was, he states in his introduction, that of "the most widely circulated English translation, made by William Marsden in 1818 and edited by Thomas Wright in 1854...based on the Ramusio version." Ramusio was the 15th-century editor of the first printed edition. Rugoff points out that "Marco Polo's work had to be circulated in manuscript for almost 180 years before the first printed edition appeared...in 1477, only twenty-one years after Gutenberg's Bible."
In a certain way, THE TRAVELS OF MARCO POLO was filtered from the start. A writer of chivalric romances of the sort parodied in Cervantes' DON QUIXOTE, visited Polo when he was a Prisoner Of War. (He was one of many captured after a naval battle between Venice and Genoa. He stayed in jail for a year, living the life of a well-heeled gentleman until his death in 1324.) It's as if the Vice-President of Coca-Cola had been placed under house arrest after some turf war between the U.S. and Canada and had talked to a reporter about introducing soda to remote places around the globe.
I'll cut to the chase: For all its many matter-of-fact descriptions of landscapes seen and people met; for all that this sort of description forms the bulk of the book, there are startling descriptions of the social structures of major ports and cities covering the near and far east' places virtually unknown to the Europeans of the day.
The immediate impact was, as with almost any significant works, negligible. But some scholars did realize that what Marco Polo had described was revelatory, and, over the next few hundred years, particularly in the Age of Discovery (Pizarro, Columbus, Magellan) THE TRAVELS OF MARCO POLO had incalculable influence.
Most of the book is dispassionate; a rare quality in a day of enforced religiosity. Much of the account is clearly aimed at the mercantile world. It is as if Marco Polo is saying, "Go to the places where spices and diamonds are. There is a way to get rich if you just set sail." What is apparent to a 21st century reader (I being one) is that a lot of the world has not changed. Pick up a newspaper, read a bit and then switch to THE TRAVELS OF MARCO POLO and you will see that war, ritual, daily survival and outlook never really do change.
About two-thirds of the way through the reader learns that Marco Polo has been asked by his hosts to govern a city, which he does for three years. We also learn something we should have expected: Marco's party (led by his father and uncle) has introduced particular weaponry to their hosts. They demonstrate a catapult. It is then used to launch a three-hundred-fifty pound boulder across a wall, smashing a building (and presumably killing the occupants.) This causes the surrender of a town. If you will, they have committed a war crime.
Have you read today's paper?
This was a very interesting, historical look at the far East. I personally believe most of these things happened as they are spoken of. (You may choose to differ in opinion with me here after you've read it.) The writing is very Twainesque in the sense that there are lots of short chapters chocked full with narrative, humor and history. (Although unlike Twain, more amazement than humor) Sometimes it almost reads like a travel guide, and other times like a missionary account. The rich account of Eastern Culture was pleasantly surprising AND the missionary accounts of miracles inspired my Christian faith. Cool stuff.