East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Two types of adventurers

Pierre Mac Orlan was a Frenchman, his real name Pierre Dumarchey. He wrote novels of adventure and crime and, under a variety of aliases, pornography. Visitors of Karavansara might know him at least for one book, La Bandera, one of the early epics of the Foreign Legion, which was filmed in the ’30s starring Jean Gabin – and that tangentially influenced a a later movie called March or Die.

A surrealist and a satirist and not just a pornographer, Mac Orlan also wrote a tiny little book called Le petit manuel du parfait aventurier, or The Little Handbook of the Perfect Adventurer. It was published in 1920, and it’s a nasty little piece of work – as one might expect given the subject matter and the author. If you want, there is a copy of the French original in the Internet archive – me, I got me the Italian version, because it’s got a ribald photo of Gary Cooper on the cover, and because Amazon was having a sale with a 25% discount on the publisher’s catalog.

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Three on the Silk Road

51DHEESMHZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_OK, so I decided to complicate my life some more.
And this time I’m complicating my life for you, dear Karavansara readers.
I hope you are moved by  this.

As I mentioned, one of the “minor” (but not minor at all) gifts I got for Christmas is Stuart StevensNight Train to Turkestan.
That is an attempt at retracing the road followed by Peter Fleming and Ella Maillart in their famous China-to-India (by way of Afghanistan) journey, in 1935.

Now, the interesting bit is – both Fleming and Maillart wrote about their experiences on the road.

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How to be an Adventurer

OK, I was writing yesterday’s post and I was surprised when I noticed that Tracey Curtis Taylor describes herself, on her her website, as an Adventurer.
Now, sure, that’s as cool as ever but…

OK, quite simply, I was told you can’t be an adventurer.
And fool that I was, I believed it.
Despite being primed – as a generation – to become adventurers, raised on a steady diet of Moon landings and Skylab, undersea exploration and travels in foreign lands, ancient mysteries and lost civilizations, we were told it was quite fun and all that, but now we should forget about it and find ourselves a job.
Possibly something very boring, capable of killing any remaining spark of life still residing in our soul.
Even those of us that – contrary to all common sense – went and became geologists, paleontologists or oceanographers, were later told we had had our fun, now go and get a proper job. Continue reading


Leonard Clark

There was a time, when reality was damn well unrealistic.

The happy-go-lucky adventurer is a mainstay of adventure literature and movies.
You know the kind of guy – treasure hunter/soldier of fortune, seeking wealth, glory and assorted kicks south of the border, or east of Constantinople.

g_hovitosNormally, when it transpires that you read (or write!) adventure stories, somebody will feel compelled to point out that it’s all so unrealistic.
Unrealistic normally leads to childish, and further snubs follow.

Jumping from planes, soldiering under ten different flags, escaping the headhunters by defeating their shaman in a test of magics, seeking and finding ancient gold, defying ancient curses, running guns across the border…

Nobody, but nobody, does that in Real Life!
Reality, we are told by the Guardians of Reality Itself, has little patience and even less space for such individuals.

That’s why I find Leonard Clark such an endearing fellow. Continue reading