East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Forgotten explorer: Giacomo Bove

Paolo Conte, a jazzman from the hills of Astigianistan and therefore a neighbor of mine, in a way, wrote a song about the lure of the sea on the staid Piedmontese farmers that live in these lands. A sea that speaks of distant places that are at the same time scary and exciting. It’s called Genova per noi, and it’s not the subject of this post.
The subject of this post is a typical example of the lure of the sea on the Piedmontese peasantry in years past and, maybe, also today.

Fact is, you see, I’ve got a job, part-time and occasional: I write articles about little-known Piedmontese historical characters. Unsung heroes, adventurers, artists and explorers, people that contradicted with their example the cliché that wants the Piedmontese to be cheerless, stubborn peasants too busy working on their land to lift their gaze and watch the stars.
Here’s the story of one of my first subjects… Continue reading

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The Man that would be Indy: William M. McGovern

Raiders of the Lost Ark

The list of real-life characters that supposedly inspired the fictional character of Indiana Jones is long and varied.
Roy Chapman Andrews is usually at the top of the list – even if both Spielberg and Lucas denied they ever heard about him before they filmed Raiders of the Lost Ark.

But what about William Montgomery McGovern?
Today, McGovern is not very popular.
The son of a globetrotting couple (his father was an army officer), McGovern put together an impressive curriculum.
He studied Buddhist philosophy in Japan, then moved to the Sorbonne first and the University of Berlin later, finally getting his PhD in Oxford. He was then lecturer and/or examiner in Oriental
Studies at the University of London. Continue reading


He’s a pirate – Henry de Monfreid

Henry-de-MonfreidTwo summers back, in 2013, I bought on a whim three books from a small italian publisher.
I was intrigued by the titles, and by the short bio of the author.
The author was Henry de Monfreid.
The three books I bought as a bundle for a few euro are the unlikely translations of de Monfreid’s first three books – Les secrets de la mer Rouge (1931), Aventures de mer (1932), La croisière du hachich (1933).
Henry de Monfreid was, by his own admission, a pirate, a drug smuggler, an adventurer and a gunrunner.
Or, as his French Wikipedia page simply states, un commerçant – a man of business.

But it gets better than that. Continue reading