Meander: East to West, Indirectly, Along a Turkish River

Meander: East to West, Indirectly, Along a Turkish River

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by Jeremy Seal
     
 

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The Meander is a river so famously winding that its name has long since come to signify digression, an approach author Jeremy Seal makes the most of while traveling the length of the river alone by canoe. A natural storyteller, Seal takes readers from the Meander's source in the uplands of central Turkey to its mouth on the Aegean Sea, with as many historical,

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Overview

The Meander is a river so famously winding that its name has long since come to signify digression, an approach author Jeremy Seal makes the most of while traveling the length of the river alone by canoe. A natural storyteller, Seal takes readers from the Meander's source in the uplands of central Turkey to its mouth on the Aegean Sea, with as many historical, cultural, and personal asides as there are bends in the river.

In a rapidly industrializing Turkey, the river itself has been largely forgotten, but the Meander was the original conduit by which the cultures of Europe and Asia first met, then clashed. The city at the river's mouth, Miletus, was home to the earliest Western philosophers, while the one at its source, Dinar, commanded the mountain pass that carried the earliest roads east. All manner of legendary adventurers, soldiers, and visionaries passed through: the Persian king Xerxes, Alexander the Great, Saint Paul, and Crusader kings, to name just a few.

In the course of his travels, Seal meets any number of people eager to share stories with a stranger. This rich mix creates a portrait of extraordinary insight and sweep at a time when Turkey is busy rediscovering her historic significance. An enchanting blend of past and present, at once epic and intimate, Meander is an atmospheric, incident-rich, and free-flowing portrayal of the essential meeting point between East and West.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“I had never been up a minaret… the question was whether it was wise that I should begin with a derelict one.” Seal (A Fez of the Heart), who has long rambled the highways and byways of Anatolia, ponders this and a thousand other timeless queries as he travels the length of the river that gives his book its name. The Menderes, as it is now known, once boasted the world’s most fabulous cities along its windy banks, and caravans passed by carrying the treasures, and warriors, of Rome, Persia, Byzantium, and Egypt. The ravages of time, earthquakes and deliberate erasures have conspired to leave a forgotten region of dusty provincial backwaters, full of menacing dogs and peculiar personalities. Seal takes advantage of his circuitous route to meditate on the joy of the open road in the style of Paul Theroux or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Along the way, he interweaves his river’s history, from the march of Xerxes to the spread of Christianity to the atrocities of the Greco-Turkish wars, with his own observations on rural Turkey and the societal convulsions since, he muses to himself, “eople like you began to arrive.” Lively and richly detailed, this will appeal to all those who love reading about epic travelogues of arduous journeys. Photos. Agent: David Miller, Rogers Coleridge and White (U.K.). (June)
Library Journal
Armed with a canoe, luggage, a box of baklava, and a jar full of water, Seal (The Snakebite Survivors' Club: Travels Among Serpents) began his canoeing adventure down the Meander River (now known as the Büyük Menderes River) from its headwaters on Turkey's Anatolia plateau to its mouth in the Aegean Sea. As he recounts here, things don't go quite as well as Seal had expected. While there are moments that Seal truly enjoys, he also experiences the river's low water levels and pollution, and contemplates its uncertain future. But the book is about more than a trip down the Meander; it's about the rich and highly complicated history of the river, region, and country itself, as well as the kindness and hospitality of the people who live beside it. Though Seal is a stranger doing something strange (a solo canoe trip), they are still willing to offer him a cup of tea or a car ride. After seeing a sign on a bridge that said Meander and discovering that the historical river actually exists, Seal decided to run the river—or at least try to. VERDICT Readers of history and travel will enjoy this charming book.—Melissa Aho, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis
Kirkus Reviews
A whimsical, winding journey by canoe and foot through the layers of Anatolia's history. A British travel writer who focuses on Turkey, Seal (Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus, 2005, etc.) casts himself as a wandering scholar in the tradition of his earlier European compatriots William Leake, Richard Pococke and Francis Arundell. However, Seal attempted what they did not: a solo waterway trip down the 500-kilometer Menderes River (aka Meander), running from the fertile plateau of Anatolia's interior to the tourist meccas of the Aegean. The river's name, thanks to the earliest allusions by historian Herodotus, geographer Strabo and others, propelled it on a fanciful etymological odyssey that endures to this day. On his journey, Seal was harshly confronted by the befouled and eroded effects of industrialization, as many parts of the winding river have been used extensively for hydroelectricity and irrigation. Beginning at the river's source at Dinar and ending near the great classical port city of Miletus, Seal traces age-old migrations of peoples through Asia Minor--including the Hittite, Phrygian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Turk--all who transformed the land in their fashion. While delving into the murky historical depths and recent tensions between the country's secular and Islamist elements, Seal was keen to befriend the locals on whom he largely relied for food and shelter as he made his way by a collapsible canoe or, when there was not sufficient water for navigation, by foot. The portraits of these simple farming people are fond and charming, but the lack of maps renders this more of a literary exercise than usable travelogue. Enlightening tour through Anatolia, rich in history and visceral detail.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596916524
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
06/05/2012
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Travel writer Jeremy Seal fell in love with Turkey twenty-five years ago. Since then, he has returned regularly to write books and articles. He is the author of The Snakebite Survivors' Club, A Fez of the Heart, Treachery at Sharpnose Point, and Nicholas.

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