Friday, April 11, 2008

A Sense of the World

I first read about A Sense of the World either from someone in one of the book groups I belong to or on one of their blogs. This is one of those great books that make it worth while to spend extra time checking out what other people are reading. A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts was originally published in 2006. My paperback edition is 402 pages, including the notes at the end of the book. Even though it is a nonfiction account of the life of James Holman, it reads like fiction. This book was incredibly interesting and I recommend it very highly. Rating: 5

A synopsis from the back cover:
He was known simply as the Blind Traveler. A solitary, sightless adventurer, James Holman (1786-1857) fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, helped chart the Australian outback—and, astonishingly, circumnavigated the globe, becoming one of the greatest wonders of the world he so sagaciously explored. A Sense of the World is a spellbinding and moving rediscovery of one of history's most epic lives—a story to awaken our own senses of awe and wonder.

"Until the invention of the internal combustion engine, the most prolific traveler in history was also the most unlikely. Born in 1786, James Holman was in many ways the quintessential world explorer: a dashing mix of discipline, recklessness, and accomplishments, a knight of Windsor, Fellow of the Royal Society, and a bestselling author. It was easy to forget that he was intermittently crippled, and permanently blind.
"He journeyed alone. He entered each country not knowing a single word of the local language. He had only enough money to travel in native fashion, in public carriages and peasant carts, on horseback and on foot. Yet 'he traversed the great globe itself more thoroughly than any other traveler that ever existed,' as one journalist of the time put it, 'and surveyed its manifold parts as perfectly as, if not more than, the most intelligent and clear-sighted of his predecessors.' " page 1

""Some salt pork was so old the crewmen gave up trying to eat it, and instead carved it into decorative boxes." pg. 24

"Holman began to use his ears not only to read people, but to read the landscape." pg 75

"Henceforth he cultivated the skill of subtly reaffirming his status as a human being, observing every wordless courtesy and taking pains to speak with a geniality that needed no translation. Decades later, fellow travelers encountering him for the first time would be struck by how easily and quickly his voice assumed 'the earnest tone of an ancient friendship.' It was a genuine sociability, but also a measure against slipping into invisibility." pg. 115

"Alone, sightless, with no prior command of native languages and with only a wisp of funds, he had forged a path equivalent to wandering to the moon." pg. 320

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