Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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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? 
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The sort of women that would look at us and consider us gnats

There this meme doing the rounds – and yes, I already told you that I can’t see why they call’em memes, but anyway…

The idea is to list five (or ten, depending on what version you find) women writers that have somehow influenced you and your world-view.
And there’s a lot of people listing fiction writers – and indeed I think I will do a women fictioneers post, maybe next week.
Right now, though, I think I’ll do my own list of authors that were and are indispensable to me… and I’ll focus on nonfiction.
But I think I’ll do six – just to be my usual wayward self.
And as a bonus, I’ll also give you a book title to check out.

Here goes, in random order…

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Five (more) Companions for a Night Out

… but let’s play the meme game “out for a wild night with five imaginary friends” in a slightly different manner, now.

What if I were to select five historical characters, five real persons, that is, to share my table at the restaurant, my box at the theater, and later a nightcap in my favorite night-spot?

Obviously, the catalogue of fascinating historical characters is sohuge and varied, that picking any five is a feat for the foolish, but let’s consider a smaller subset.

This is, after all, karavansara, where adventure and fiction meet and intermingle… so, what about a night out with five of those 20th century scholars-adventurers I love so much?

Let’s see… Continue reading


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Peter Fleming

“São Paulo is like Reading, only much farther away.”

imageI admit a long-standing fascination for espionage at its most basic – not james Bond ultratech but Deighton spycraft, in other words.
Espionage as people, not gadgets.
From the Elizabethan Secrert Service to the black ops of recent years, I’ve collected books, handbooks, stuff.

And in terms of espionage, one has to wonder at the personnel of the WW2 British secret outfits.
David Niven and Christopher Lee working with commandos and Information Services…
Occult bestseller author Dennis Wheatley churning out plans and fake papers to be leaked to the Germans (including a complete plan for the invasion of Europe, written on a single weekend, fueled only by champagne and turkish cigarettes)…
Rosita Forbes travelling the world and taking notes, Elizabeth David (the food writer) wandering through the Mediterranean and Southern France…
John Blofeld, sure, and of course the Fleming Brothers, Ian and Peter.

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Rosita Forbes

We breathed the same air for one month.

NPG x16614; (Joan) Rosita Forbes (Mrs Arthur T. McGrath) by Howard CosterIf it has to start somewhere, my personal gallery of travellers, explorers, adventurers and assorted daredevils, it has to start with Rosita Forbes.

Joan Rosita “Sita” Forbes neé Torr, was born in England in 1890.
She owed that distinctively un-British name to a Spanish grandmother.
She left home at seventeen and married at twentyone – but the marriage did not last long.
She only kept the Forbes surname.
Now calling herself Rosita Forbes, she drove an ambulance during WWI.

Then, with a friend called Undine, she left London and travelled the world – thirty countries in thirteen months.
She wrote a book about it.
In Paris, she planned to cover the Peace Talks, as a jounalist, but the newspaper for which she worked sent her as a reporter in Casablanca.

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