Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu

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Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu

by BERGREEN LAURENCE

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | August 25, 2010 | Hardcover |

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As the most celebrated European to explore Asia, Marco Polo was the original global traveler and the earliest bridge between East and West. A universal icon of adventure and discovery, he has inspired six centuries of popular fascination and spurious mythology. Now, from the acclaimed author of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe ("Superb . . . A first-rate historical page turner"-The New York Times)-comes the first fully authoritative biography of one of the most enchanting figures in world history. In this masterly work, Marco Polo's incredible odyssey-along the Silk Road and through all the fantastic circumstances of his life-is chronicled in sumptuous and illuminating detail.

We meet him as a callow young man, the scion of a wealthy Venetian merchant family, only seventeen when he sets out in 1271 with his father and uncle on their journey to Asia. We see him gain the confidence of Kublai Khan, the world's most feared and powerful leader, and watch him become a trusted diplomat and intelligence agent in the ruler's inner circle. We are privy to his far-flung adventures on behalf of the Khan, living among the Mongols and other tribes, and traveling to magical cities, some far advanced over the West. We learn the customs of the Khan's court, both erotic and mercantile, and Polo's uncanny ability to adapt to them. We follow him on his journey back to Venice, laden with riches, the latest inventions, and twenty-four years' worth of extraordinary tales.

And we see his collaboration with the famed writer Rustichello of Pisa, who immediately saw in Polo the story of a lifetime; enlivened by his genius for observation, Polo's tales needed little embellishment. Recorded by Rustichello as the two languished as prisoners of war in a Genoese jail, the Travels would explode the notion of non-Europeans as untutored savages and stand as the definitive description of China until the nineteenth century.

Drawing on original sources in more than half a dozen languages, and on his own travels along Polo's route in China and Mongolia, Bergreen explores the lingering controversies surrounding Polo's legend, settling age-old questions and testing others for significance. Synthesizing history, biography, and travelogue, this is the timely chronicle of a man who extended the boundaries of human knowledge and imagination. Destined to be the definitive account of its subject for decades to come, Marco Polo takes us on a journey to the limits of history-and beyond.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 432 Pages, 6.3 × 9.45 × 1.18 in

Published: August 25, 2010

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 140004345X

ISBN - 13: 9781400043453

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– More About This Product –

Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu

by BERGREEN LAURENCE

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 432 Pages, 6.3 × 9.45 × 1.18 in

Published: August 25, 2010

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 140004345X

ISBN - 13: 9781400043453

Read from the Book

Chapter One: The Merchants of Venice   Then all the charm Is broken—all that phantom-world so fair Vanishes, and a thousand circlets spread. . . .   She hid from her enemies amid a seductive array of islands, 118 in all. Damp, dark, cloistered, and crowded, she perched on rocks and silt. Fortifications and spectacular residences rose on foundations of pinewood piles and Istrian stone. In Marco Polo''s Venice, few edifices—with the exception of one huge Byzantine basilica and other large churches—stood entirely straight; most structures seemed to rise uncertainly from the water.   Marco Polo came of age in a city of night edging toward dawn; it was opaque, secretive, and rife with transgressions and superstitions. Even those who had lived their entire lives in Venice became disoriented as they wandered down blind alleys that turned without warning from familiar to sinister. The whispers of conspiracy and the laughter of intimacy echoed through narrow passageways from invisible sources; behind dim windows, candles and torches flickered discreetly. In the evening, cobwebs of mist arose from the canals, imposing silence and isolation, obscuring the lanterns in the streets or in windows overlooking the gently heaving canals. Rats were everywhere—emerging from the canals, scurrying along the wharves and streets, gnawing at the city''s fragile infrastructure, bringing the plague with them.   The narrow streets and passageways, some barely
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From the Publisher

As the most celebrated European to explore Asia, Marco Polo was the original global traveler and the earliest bridge between East and West. A universal icon of adventure and discovery, he has inspired six centuries of popular fascination and spurious mythology. Now, from the acclaimed author of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe ("Superb . . . A first-rate historical page turner"-The New York Times)-comes the first fully authoritative biography of one of the most enchanting figures in world history. In this masterly work, Marco Polo's incredible odyssey-along the Silk Road and through all the fantastic circumstances of his life-is chronicled in sumptuous and illuminating detail.

We meet him as a callow young man, the scion of a wealthy Venetian merchant family, only seventeen when he sets out in 1271 with his father and uncle on their journey to Asia. We see him gain the confidence of Kublai Khan, the world's most feared and powerful leader, and watch him become a trusted diplomat and intelligence agent in the ruler's inner circle. We are privy to his far-flung adventures on behalf of the Khan, living among the Mongols and other tribes, and traveling to magical cities, some far advanced over the West. We learn the customs of the Khan's court, both erotic and mercantile, and Polo's uncanny ability to adapt to them. We follow him on his journey back to Venice, laden with riches, the latest inventions, and twenty-four years' worth of extraordinary tales.

And we see his collaboration with the famed writer Rustichello of Pisa, who immediately saw in Polo the story of a lifetime; enlivened by his genius for observation, Polo's tales needed little embellishment. Recorded by Rustichello as the two languished as prisoners of war in a Genoese jail, the Travels would explode the notion of non-Europeans as untutored savages and stand as the definitive description of China until the nineteenth century.

Drawing on original sources in more than half a dozen languages, and on his own travels along Polo's route in China and Mongolia, Bergreen explores the lingering controversies surrounding Polo's legend, settling age-old questions and testing others for significance. Synthesizing history, biography, and travelogue, this is the timely chronicle of a man who extended the boundaries of human knowledge and imagination. Destined to be the definitive account of its subject for decades to come, Marco Polo takes us on a journey to the limits of history-and beyond.

From the Jacket

"As enthralling as a rollicking travel journal."
-- New York Times Book Review

"With his polished, authoritative storytelling, Bergreen makes the world of Marco Polo very pertinent."--Entertainment Weekly

"Mesmerizing . . . This is lively history that is richly detailed and destined to be the definitive account of Marco Polo and his adventures for decades to come."
--Tucson Citizen

"Illuminating . . . A window into the most exotic of places and times."
--St. Petersburg Times

"Fascinating . . . A constant surprise and delight."
--The Plain Dealer

"[An] exciting reconstruction of the extraordinary life of Marco Polo . . . impressively researched and deftly composed."
--Booklist

"This is an enthusiastic retelling of Marco Polo's timeless story. Laurence Bergreen draws from a broad range of the surviving Polo manuscripts to create a convincing portrait of how Marco was able to get to thirteenth century China, and of what he saw, felt and did when he got there. Readers unfamiliar with Polo's adventures will find much pleasure here."
--Jonathan Spence, author of Emperor of China

"At last! Marco Polo comes to life! Laurence Bergreen, perhaps America's liveliest biographer, has created a triumph of fascinations, a classic portrait that now surely can never be bettered."
--Simon Winchester, author of The Map That Changed the World

About the Author

Laurence Bergreen is the prize-winning author of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan''s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe, as well as James Agee: A Life; Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life; Capone: The Man and the Era; and As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin, each considered the definitive work on its subject. A graduate of Harvard University, he lives in New York City. As part of the research for this book, he traveled Marco Polo''s route across Mongolia and China.

Editorial Reviews

"As enthralling as a rollicking travel journal."
-- New York Times Book Review

"With his polished, authoritative storytelling, Bergreen makes the world of Marco Polo very pertinent."--Entertainment Weekly

"Mesmerizing . . . This is lively history that is richly detailed and destined to be the definitive account of Marco Polo and his adventures for decades to come."
--Tucson Citizen

"Illuminating . . . A window into the most exotic of places and times."
--St. Petersburg Times

"Fascinating . . . A constant surprise and delight."
--The Plain Dealer

"[An] exciting reconstruction of the extraordinary life of Marco Polo . . . impressively researched and deftly composed."
--Booklist

"This is an enthusiastic retelling of Marco Polo''s timeless story. Laurence Bergreen draws from a broad range of the surviving Polo manuscripts to create a convincing portrait of how Marco was able to get to thirteenth century China, and of what he saw, felt and did when he got there. Readers unfamiliar with Polo''s adventures will find much pleasure here."
--Jonathan Spence, author of Emperor of China

"At last! Marco Polo comes to life! Laurence Bergreen, perhaps America''s liveliest biographer, has created a triumph of fascinations, a classic portrait that now surely can never be bettered."
--Simon Winchester, author of The Map That Changed the World
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