Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu
By Laurence Bergreen
Published in October 2008
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
I have read one of the many translations of Marco Polo’s adventures several years ago, but thought that I would revisit the story. This time, instead of reading the original, I instead read a historian’s reconstruction.
The reconstruction added a lot of context to the original.
Having read this book after having read more about the Mongols and the period in general, I had a much better understanding of the characters and geography. I cannot believe I didn’t remember this - but Marco Polo was an advisor to Kublai Khan - a monumentally important detail that I somehow forgot.
One thing that struck me was how much Marco Polo was focused on sex. He describes entire towns of whores on the Silk Road, cuckold villages of Tibetans that invite all travelling strangers to bed their wives, the harems of Kublai Khan, the loose women of the Maldives, and the bizarre (fictitious?) sexual customs of the East Africans. After reading this book, I can only come to one conclusion: Marco Polo was the original sexpat [sexpat = sex + expat, basically a creepy white guy who lives in Southeast Asia].
If you are looking for a guide to better understand the adventures of Marco Polo, then this is the book for you. A word of warning - the book is true to the original, and more than half of the text goes into gruesome detail about the sexual practices of East Asia. This book is not suitable for children or the faint of heart.
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