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Monday, Oct 25, 2021
Outlook.com

Byzantium Beckons

An honest travelogue: across a past enveloped by the present

Byzantium Beckons
Byzantium Beckons
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
The British are (or were) instinctive adventurers and travellers. Witness the number of outstanding travel writers who have come out of Britain. To their names, that of William Dalrymple has been come out of Britain. To their names, that of William Dalrymple has been added in recent years. Dalrymple has a purpose in mind when he sets out on a book, a purpose which is both intelligent and an arrival. His books some-times turn out to be slightly different from what they started out to be. This is his third book and it is somewhat like his first one In Xanadu, which is in fact subtitled "A Quest". Travel writing has now become a quest, because all the world is known.

There are no undiscovered places left; the mysteries that remain are connected with phenomena largely extant in the imaginations of people. To write a travel book, it is necessary to invent a quest which will take you on it. Alexander Frater, for example, was Chasing the Monsoon when he decided to write about India. Dalrymple has subtitled his new book "A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium".

The area over which the Byzantine emperors held sway has frequently and rather inappropriately been called "the cradle of civilisation". Cradles are supposed to soothe whoever occupies them into an induced sleep; the area one occupied by the Byzantine empire has been notable for its unending unrest. As for civilisation, all it seems to have taught the human race is new ways of genocide. Dalrymple is a very good writer in the sense that his prose style is strong, and can stand up without too much ornamentation; also that it conveys his character, which is highly intelligent, sensitive and observant. When you accompany Dalrymple through a book, you know that in a literary sense you are safe.

He is also something of a scholar, and deeply committed, or at least it appears so here, to his...

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