Eothen, Or, Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East

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Oxford University Press, 1982 - Middle East - 279 pages
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While travel writing had already enjoyed a long and honored tradition in England, the publication in 1844 of Alexander Kinglake's Eothen forever changed the genre, and its influence may be traced down the generations from Robert Curzon's Monasteries of the Levant (1849) to Paul Theroux's Great Railway Bazaar (1975). Eothen--a Greek word meaning "from the east"--is certainly one of the most witty and idiosyncratic of travel books, for Kinglake was not as interested in the art, buildings, or appearance of a particular place than he was in the impression these made on him. And unlike most other wealthy travelers of his time, Kinglake took especial delight in the exotic and slightly danagerous aspects of his travel.
Avoiding the obligatory ports of call of the English gentleman's Grand Tour, Kinglake followed a circuitous route from Europe to what was then called the Near East--Turkey, the countries of the Holy Land, Egypt. Rarely does he make an effort to describe scenery, and some of the most well-known of his stops are hardly mentioned at all: Bethlehem he dismisses in thirteen lines, and Baalbec, well, "Come! Baalbec is over; I got 'rather well' out of that." But he devotes a whole chapter to the Sphinx--or rather to his contemplation of the Sphinx--and while he rarely imparts any information useful to future travelers, he constantly transforms his experience into a lively, reckless, sometimes unfair, sometimes moving, often hilarious artistic interpretation. It was this unusual and captivating style which so intrigued his first readers and made Eothen an enduring bestseller in his time; it is also what makes it a classic in ours.

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User Review  - lmichet - LibraryThing

This Englishman's perspective on the middle east-- the Middle East that we know today, Palestine and Israel and Syria and Egypt, in all their old Ottoman wildnesses-- is fascinating in more ways than ... Read full review


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About the author (1982)

English historian Alexander Kinglake was born in Wilton House, near Taunton and was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. A tour of the Far East in 1840 resulted in the publication of Eothen (1844). Eothen is a Greek word meaning "from the early dawn" or "from the East." It consists of letters that Kinglake wrote home while making his extensive tour. He became the historian of the Crimea in 1863, writing the History of the War in the Crimea (1863-87), considered one of the finest historical works of the nineteenth century.

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