Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Karavansara Free Library: 7 books by Sven Hedin

sven hedinThe Karavansara Free Library does Sven Hedin, and it’s quite a feat.
A true explorers’ explorer, Hedin had a colossal output of writings, and he is certainly one of the essential authors when it comes to Central Asia and the Silk Road.
“Geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, travel writer, and illustrator of his own works”, to quote Wikipedia, Hedin did more than anyone else for the exploration of Central Asia, and his accounts are a collection of sharp scientific observation, anecdotal narrative and adventure.
Sometimes more academical than the works of Rosita Forbes and Emily Hahn, Hedin’s books can sometimes sound a tiny little bit self-celebratory, but really, the man was all over Asia and really went where no man had gone before. Well, no European man at least.
Granted, he sometimes sounds like he was too much in love of his own myth, and certainly being chummy with Hitler (that was a fan of his) did not do any good for his post-war popularity, but in all fairness he soon found out what monsters he was being chummy with, and he did what he could to stop their madness.

“He was a pioneer and pathfinder in the transitional period to a century of specialized research. No other single person illuminated and represented unknown territories more extensively than he.”

The Internet Archive holds a wealth of his books, but here we will only list a few titles, let’s say Sven Hedin’s Essential Bookshelf. Continue reading


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Karavansara Free Library: Six books by Emily Hahn

The Internet Archive is a treasure trove of free ebooks somehow related to Karavansara’s themes and topics.

220px-Emily_HahnWe started the Karavansara Free Library with a few titles from Rosita Forbes, and now we follow up with another woman I find absolutely fascinating: Emily Hahn.
Another traveler, journalist and adventuress, American Emily Hahn was the woman that attended posh parties in Shanghai in the ’30s in the company of a diaper-wearing monkey – a fact that I mentioned in my novel The Ministry of Thunder, and I was criticized for writing rubbish. Ah!

Emily Hahn was also an expert on primates, a walking, breathing scandal, an opium addict (for a while), and a damn fine writer.
In her career as a writer she did comedy, politics, history, science and biography, art and travel memoirs.
When she was arrested by the Japanese after the fall of Hong Kong and was asked how could she have given birth to a child out of wedlock, she replied

I am a bad girl.

The Internet Archive has four books from her huge catalog ready for download…

1941 – The Soong Sisters

1946 – Raffles of Singapore, a Biography

1956 – All About Leonardo da Vinci

1959 – The Tiger House Party: The Last Days Of The Maharajas

hahn… and as a little extra, there’s two more volumes in the Gutenberg Project, Emily Hahn’s first two books.

1930 – Seductio ad Absurdum

1931 – Beginners Luck

All in all a fair selection, that shows the style, wit, skill and versatility of Hahn’s writing.

More books by Emily Hahn are currently being reprinted by Open Road Media, and are highly recommended.


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Karavansara Free Library: Nine books by Rosita Forbes

I was putting together my latest post, the one about the reading list, and I got back to thinking about Rosita Forbes.
Old-time readers of Karavansara will remember that I did a post about Rosita Forbes in the earliest days of this blog, basically because I am in love with the lady.
To recap: independent and adventurous, Rosita married young, divorced, sold her wedding ring and left for good. She did a gig driving an ambulance during the Great War. Then she embarked in a tour of the world with a friend, gatecrashed the Paris Peace Conference, did a bit of spying for the British, and was a pioneer of documentary cinema. And found a lost city in the Sahara desert.
She met both Hitler and Mussolini, and Gandhi, and wrote about it.
And she also wrote a number of travel books and memoirs.

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And these are the books we are interested in, of course, because they provide us with the opportunity of seeing the world in the first half of the 20th century through the eyes of an adventuress. And an adventuress that could write.
Perfect.
And even better now that (mostly) the Digital Library of India has uploaded a fat stack of Rosita Forbes books on the Internet Archive – so that you can go there and download and read them, and what’s not to love about it?

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So here it is, for the love of adventure, good books and Rosita Forbes, a selection of links1.

1919 – Unconducted Wanderers

1921 – The Secret of the Sahara: Kufara

1921 – Adventure : being a gipsy–some incidents, excitements and impressions of twelve highly – seasoned years

1925 – From Red Sea To Blue Nile, Abyssinian Adventure

1927 – Forbidden Road: Kabul to Samarkand

1939 – India of the Princes

1940 – These men I knew

1944 – Gypsy in the Sun

1946 – Appointment with destiny

Not a bad selection, what?
I hope you enjoy these books – and any comment is welcome, as usual.


  1. and why not start a new series of posts, called Karavansara Free Library – legally free ebooks, a selection curated by yours truly. Might be fun, don’t you think?