The most admired travel writer of our time—author of Shadow of the Silk Road and To a Mountain in Tibet—recounts an eye-opening, often perilous journey along a little known Far East Asian river that for over a thousand miles forms the highly contested border between Russia and China.
The Amur River is almost unknown. Yet it is the tenth longest river in the world, rising in the Mongolian mountains and flowing through Siberia to the Pacific. For 1,100 miles it forms the tense border between Russia and China. Simmering with the memory of land-grabs and unequal treaties, this is the most densely fortified frontier on earth.
In his eightieth year, Colin Thubron takes a dramatic journey from the Amur’s secret source to its giant mouth, covering almost 3,000 miles. Harassed by injury and by arrest from the local police, he makes his way along both the Russian and Chinese shores, starting out by Mongolian horse, then hitchhiking, sailing on poacher’s sloops or travelling the Trans-Siberian Express. Having revived his Russian and Mandarin, he talks to everyone he meets, from Chinese traders to Russian fishermen, from monks to indigenous peoples. By the time he reaches the river’s desolate end, where Russia’s nineteenth-century imperial dream petered out, a whole, pivotal world has come alive.
The Amur River is a shining masterpiece by the acknowledged laureate of travel writing, an urgent lesson in history and the culmination of an astonishing career.
About the Author
Colin Thubron is the author of seven award-winning novels, including To the Last City, which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He is an acknowledged master of travel writing, and his most recent titles include Behind the Wall, winner of the Hawthornden Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Award; In Siberia, winner of the Prix Bouvier; the New York Times bestseller Shadow of the Silk Road; and To a Mountain in Tibet. In 2010 he became president of the Royal Society of Literature.
“A breathtaking account of the beauty and harshness of the 1,100-mile-long Amur River that forms the border between Russia and China… Thubron documents the interplay of politics and history, contrasting the “subdued fatalism” of Russians living in the river basin with the bustling optimism of the Chinese, whose glitzy restaurants and markets mask signs of discontent…A top-notch travelogue.”
— Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Enthralling… A captivating portrait of a remote region of the world… evoking with beautiful detail and compassion its rich history and culture."
— Kirkus (Starred Review)
"SHADOW OF THE SILK ROAD is moving in a way that's rare in travel literature, sidestepping nostalgia even as it notes its pull...Thubron goes to places most other sojourners can't--because they're not so much geographic locations as states of mind, formed from the lifelong accretion of intriguing facts, mistaken hopes, mysteries."
— New York Times Book Review on Shadow of the Silk Road
"Colin Thubron, a sublime travel writer in the tradition of Freya Stark and Patrick Leigh Fermor . . . captures the most evocative details in the landscape and in the lives of ordinary people with lyricism, compassion, and wit."
— Boston Globe on Shadow of the Silk Road
"An intrepid, resourceful, and immensely talented writer. . . . An uncommonly interesting book."
— Washington Post Book World on Shadow of the Silk Road
"Lyrical, erudite, infused with human warmth, and informed by a curiosity that seems as limitless as a desert horizon...Thubron adds to our understanding a dimension of humanity that would otherwise have gone unrecognized."
— London Sunday Times on Shadow of the Silk Road
"Thubron has done it all, with sparkling grace...His is an experience of transformation, fittingly, for if the Silk Road was anything, it was an agent of kaleidoscopic transformation."
— San Francisco Chronicle on Shadow of the Silk Road