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The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu
The Quest for This Storied City and the Race to Save its Treasures
Two tales of a city: The historical race to reach one of the world's most mythologized places, and the story of how a contemporary band of archivists and librarians, fighting to save its ancient manuscripts from destruction at the hands of al Qaeda, added another layer to the legend.
The fabled city of Timbuktu has captured the Western imagination for centuries. The search for this `African El Dorado' cost the lives of many explorers but Timbuktu is rich beyond its legends. Home to many thousands of ancient manuscripts on poetry, history, religion, law, pharmacology and astronomy, the city has been a centre of learning since medieval times.
When jihadists invaded Mali in 2012 threatening destruction to Timbuktu's libraries, a remarkable thing happened. A team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the precious manuscripts into hiding. Based on new research and first-hand reporting, Charlie English expertly tells this story set in one of the world's most fascinating places, and the myths from which it has become inseparable.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
`An exemplary work of investigative journalism that is also a wonderfully colourful book of history and travel' William Dalrymple, Observer, Books of the Year
`This spellbinding record of Timbuktu's intellectual heritage blends accounts of European explorers to the ancient city with contemporary reportage' New Yorker
`A work of intellectual honesty that represents narrative non-fiction at its most satisfying and engaging' William Dalrymple, Guardian
`A piece of postmodern historiography of quite extraordinary sophistication and ingenuity... [written with] exceptional delicacy and restraint' TLS
`Part reportage, part history, part romance and wholly gripping... a riveting read' Sunday Times
`A fascinating account of Timbuktu's history and the brave and crazy adventurers who sought death and glory trying to get there' The Times
`Gripping ... written with journalistic verve' Sunday Telegraph
`A rewarding account ... after reading it I felt I knew more, cared more and wanted to know more' Scotland on Sunday
`Running alongside Mr English's lively telling of the quest for Timbuktu is a thrilling account of a more recent story: the daring evacuation of hundred of thousands of Timbuktu's manuscripts by its librarians during the jihadist occupation in 2012... The two stories illuminate each other, but somewhat obliquely. It is nonetheless a brilliant device' Economist
`As Timbuktu remains off limits for tourists, this account is all the more intriguing' Financial Times