A stunning fictionalized account of the infamous life of British colonial officer and translator Sir Richard Francis Burton
This fictionalized account imagines the life of Sir Richard Francis Burton—a nineteenth-century British colonial officer with a rare ability to assimilate into indigenous cultures. Burton's obsessive traveling took him from England to British India, Arabia, and on a quest for the source of the Nile River in Africa. He learned more than twenty languages, translated The Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra, and took part in the pilgrimage to Mecca, in addition to writing several travel books.
This elegant, layered novel tells the story of Burton's adventures in British West India, his experience on the hajj to Mecca, and his exploration of East Africa. In each section, perspective shifts between Burton and the voices of those men he encounters along the way: his Indian servant tells the stories of his travails with Burton to a scribe; the qadi, the governor, and the shari in Mecca investigate Burton's hajj; and Sidi Mubarak Bombay, his African guide, shares his story with friends in Zanzibar. The concentric narratives examine the underbelly of colonialism while offering a breathtaking tour of the nineteenth century's most stunning landscapes.
The Collector of Worlds won the fiction prize of Germany's Leipzig Book Fair in 2006 and the Berlin Literary Award, in addition to being a runaway bestseller in Germany.
Born in Bulgaria, Iliya Troyanov has lived in Germany, Kenya, India, and South Africa. He has written several novels as well as travelogues on Africa, India, and Bulgaria. His Along the Ganges was included in CondÉ Nast Traveler's list of the best travelogues ever. Troyanov lives in Vienna, Austria.
“A rounded and satisfying portrait that traditional biography could never match…Troyanov’s novel is itself an act of brave exploration, setting out to chart the unknown and unknowable by filling in the blank spaces of Richard Francis Burton.”
-New York Times Book Review
“There are novels so finely constructed that they propel you back to the beginning at the moment you reach the end. Instead of closing the covers, you return to the first page with fresh eyes. Iliya Troyanov’s ‘The Collector of Worlds’ is a wonderfully sumptuous example.”
“Mesmerizing...the perfect present for wannabe explorers.”
-National Geographic Traveler Online
“I was thrilled by this book. One could compare it to Moby-Dick, narrated in a masterly manner. . . . This is a novel that entertains as well as informs, and this is the best that one could say of any book.”