To Westerners, the name “Timbuktu” long conjured a tantalising paradise, an African El Dorado where even the slaves wore gold. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, a series of explorers gripped by the fever for “discovery” tried repeatedly to reach the fabled city. But one expedition after another went disastrously awry, succumbing to attack, the climate, and disease. Timbuktu was rich in another way too. A medieval centre of learning, it was home to tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts, on subjects ranging from religion to poetry, law to history, pharmacology, and astronomy.
When al-Qaeda–linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012, threatening the existence of these precious documents, a remarkable thing happened: a team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the manuscripts into hiding. Relying on extensive research and firsthand reporting, Charlie English expertly twines these two suspenseful strands into a fascinating account of one of the planet's extraordinary places, and the myths from which it has become inseparable.
About the Author
Charlie is the former head of international news at the Guardian and author of 'The Snow Tourist'.
`This spellbinding record of Timbuktu's intellectual heritage blends accounts of European explorers to the ancient city with contemporary reportage' New Yorker `As Timbuktu remains off limits for tourists, this account is all the more intriguing' Financial Times `The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu is an exemplary piece of investigative journalism that is also a wonderfully colourful book of history and travel. Above all, it is a work of intellectual honesty that represents narrative non-fiction at its most satisfying and engaging' William Dalrymple, Guardian `A piece of postmodern historiography of quite extraordinary sophistication and ingenuity... [written with] exceptional delicacy and restraint' TLS `In this enthralling book - part historiography, part detective story - Charlie English leads the reader on a treasure hunt through Timbuktu's labyrinthine past to reveal how fact and fable have always commingled there - and continue to do so today. Like the beguiling place it describes, `The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu' is fascinating and surprising at every turn'Scott Anderson, author of `Lawrence in Arabia' `Part reportage, part history, part romance and wholly gripping... a riveting read' Sunday Times `A fascinating account of Timbuktu's history and the brave and crazy adventurers who sought death and glory trying to get there' The Times `Gripping ... written with journalist verve' Sunday Telegraph `A rewarding account ... after reading it I felt I knew more, cared more and wanted to know more' Scotland on Sunday `Running alongside Mr English's lively telling of the quest for Timbuktu is a thrilling account of a more recent story: the daring evacuation of hundred of thousands of Timbuktu's manuscripts by its librarians during the jihadist occupation in 2012... The two stories illuminate each other, but somewhat obliquely. It is nonetheless a brilliant device' Economist
Number Of Pages: 416
Published: 1st May 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.5 x 3.2
Weight (kg): 0.56