Ex Libris Kirkland

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First Written 2001
Genre Biography
Origin US
Publisher Modern Library
ISBN-10 0375757465
ISBN-13 978-0375757464
My Copy library hardback
First Read February 27, 2019

Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark

I heard about Freya Stark last year and have been waiting to get my hands on more info about her; this looks to be the definitive biography. Stark was, despite her Game-of-Thrones sounding name, an italian-english traveler who was one of the first europeans (esp women) to travel through various parts of the middle east. She seems entirely self-driven: she was never rich or important, but by pluck and determination just got herself to the middle east, learned a ton of languages, and slipped past various border guards, protectorate cordons, etc. My kind of traveler to read about! She wrote about her travels like a good Englishperson, and has several popular books that have been in print since the 30s.

It's interesting, although I kind of don't care much about her personal life - and there are long spells of details about her relationships - but all I want to hear about are her travels. I should really have skimmed this faster and moved on to her actual writing to get to those primary sources.

Noted on April 18, 2019

My big takeaway was: it's too bad Freya Stark was not born a rich man. She could have been another Peter Fleming! Even though she DID travel a lot, and was relatively successful, her poor background and her gender restrained her at nearly every turn.

Noted on April 18, 2019

Freya Stark, despite her extremely Game-of-Thrones-sounding name, was an Italian-English woman who explored / traveled around Arabia at a time when this was partially uncharted, and definitely not done by women. She wrote magazine articles and pretty successful books about her travels. At a time when the European powers had colonial centers in the middle east, she learned arabic and explored beyond the boundaries of military control. She explored the 'valley of the assassins' in Syria, she explored backcountry in Yemen, etc. By all accounts she was a charming, daring adventurer.

This is a general biography of Stark, and she's a fascinating character. I was really interested to read about her actual travels, but half or more of this book is about Stark's upbringing, unsettled family life, and relationships. But most of those happened on European soil, and I sped thru those chapters to get to her actual traveling.

I should probably have just gone straight to her actual writing, but the library had this!

Noted on April 18, 2019

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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