Iliya Troyanov's fictionalized account imagines the life of Sir Richard Francis Burton - a 19th-century British colonial officer with a rare ability to assimilate into indigenous cultures. Burton's obsessive travelling took him from England to British India, Arabia, and on a quest for the source of the Nile River in Africa. He learned more than 20 languages, translated "The Arabian Nights" and the "Kama Sutra", and took part in the pilgrimage to Mecca, in addition to writing several travel books. This elegant, layered novel tells the story of Burton's adventures in British West India, his experience on the hajj to Mecca, and his exploration of East Africa. In each section, perspective shifts between Burton and the voices of those men he encounters along the way: his Indian servant tells the stories of his travails with Burton to ascribe; the qadi, the governor, and the shari in Mecca investigate Burton's hajj; and, Sidi Mubarak Bombay, his African guide, shares his story with friends in Zanzibar. These concentric narratives examine the underbelly of colonialism while offering a breathtaking tour of the 19th century's most stunning landscapes.
Born in Bulgaria, Iliya Troyanov has lived in Germany, Kenya, India, and South Africa. He has written several novels as well as travelogues on Africa, India, and Bulgaria. His Along the Ganges was included in Conde Nast Traveler's list of the best travelogues ever. He lives in Vienna, Austria.