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Travel classic: The Book of Duarte Barbosa

Travel classic: The Book of Duarte Barbosa

If Anita Nair is looking for time travel in the reverse, it is Barbosa that she would reach out for

Anita Nair
December 10 , 2014
Less than 1 Min Read

I have been devouring travel books ever since I first chanced upon Paul Theroux when I was thirteen. Theroux’s point of view was for many years my yardstick to measure a travel book. But in recent times I have been reading accounts of travellers in the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries and I am stumped for choice between the Portuguese Duartes Barbosa, the French Jean Baptiste Tavernier and the Dutch Philip Baldaeus. One a clerk, the other a diamond merchant and the third a man of the cloth, these were travellers who travelled for a reason; and yet in them the call to travel preceded purpose. Even the names of their books, like The Book of Duarte Barbosa, have a certain heft. Of these, perhaps Barbosa is my all-time favourite. He travelled to Kerala and unlike many travellers studied the language and hence his observations of the place and people are not presumptions coloured by miscomprehensions. If I am looking for time travel in the reverse, it is Barbosa I would reach out for.

Anita Nair’s latest novels are Cut Like Wound and Idris


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