Described by the author as simply ‘a work of love’, Mirror to Damascus provides a rich and fascinating history of Damascus from the Amorites of the Bible to the revolution of 1966, and is also a charming and witty personal record of an extraordinary city. Colin Thubron explores the historical, artistic, social and religious inheritance of its people. Along the way, he shares unforgettable stories about the enterprising travellers of bygone days.
Reviewed by Maggie Fergusson in Slightly Foxed Issue 58.
In 1992, I started working for a strange but beguiling organization. The Royal Society of Literature was, in those days, housed in a huge, dilapidated mansion in Bayswater, and it was there that its Fellows gathered to raise a farewell glass to my predecessor. They were an elderly, rather moth-eaten bunch, but one stood out – a strikingly handsome younger man in a velvet jacket. Somebody introduced me: ‘This is Colin Thubron. He’ll be a great support to you.’
And so he proved – when he was in London. For great tracts of time he was away, leaving his ‘old self behind’, exploring places most of us would neither dare nor desire to visit, but which we love to read about with a vicarious sense of fearlessness and endurance. In the golden generation that produced Jonathan Raban, Bruce Chatwin, Paul Theroux and Redmond O’Hanlon, Thubron is now the Grand Old Man, bringing to journeys that are physically and psychologically testing a fine, romantic sensibility. Even when there is apparently nothing to describe, his prose is seductively beautiful . . .
Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 58, Summer 2018
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