This November we are joined in the bookshop by one of the greatest travel writers of our age, Colin Thubron.
Colin will describe to us the dramatic and ambitious journey he embarked upon for his latest book, The Amur River.
The Amur River is almost unknown. Yet it is the tenth longest river in the world, rising in the Mongolian mountains and flowing through Siberia to the Pacific. For 1,100 miles it forms the tense border between Russia and China. Haunted by the memory of land-grabs and unequal treaties, this is the most densely fortified frontier on earth.
In his eightieth year, Colin Thubron set out to travel a journey that took him from the Amur’s secret source to its giant mouth, covering almost 3,000 miles. Harassed by injury and by arrest from the local police, he made his way along both the Russian and Chinese shores, starting out by Mongolian horse, then hitchhiking, sailing on poacher’s sloops or travelling the Trans-Siberian Express. Having revived his Russian and Mandarin, he spoke to everyone he met, from Chinese traders to Russian fishermen, from monks to indigenous peoples. By the time he reaches the river’s desolate end, where Russia’s nineteenth-century imperial dream petered out, a whole, pivotal world had come alive.
The Amur River is a shining masterpiece by the acknowledged laureate of travel writing, an urgent lesson in history and the culmination of an astonishing career.