Dr Edmund Richardson
‘Not all lost cities are real, but this one was.’
The extraordinary story of Alexander the Great’s lost city, and a quest to unravel one of the most captivating mysteries in ancient history.
‘Superb … impeccably researched, but with the pace and deftly woven plot complexity of a John le Carre novel … utterly brilliant’ William Dalrymple, Guardian
‘[An] exceptional biography … This is a jewel of a book’ Sunday Times
‘A brilliant and evocative biography, written with consummate scholarship, great style and wit’ Daily Telegraph
For centuries the city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains was a meeting point of East and West. Then it vanished. In 1833 it was discovered in Afghanistan by the unlikeliest person imaginable: Charles Masson, an ordinary working-class boy from London turned deserter, pilgrim, doctor, archaeologist and highly respected scholar.
On the way into one of history’s most extraordinary stories, Masson would take tea with kings, travel with holy men and become the master of a hundred disguises; he would see things no westerner had glimpsed before and few have glimpsed since. He would spy for the East India Company and be suspected of spying for Russia at the same time, for this was the era of the Great Game, when imperial powers confronted each other in these staggeringly beautiful lands. Masson discovered tens of thousands of pieces of Afghan history, including the 2,000-year-old Bimaran golden casket, which has upon it the earliest known face of the Buddha. He would be offered his own kingdom; he would change the world, and the world would destroy him.
This is a wild journey through nineteenth-century India and Afghanistan, with impeccably researched storytelling that shows us a world of espionage and dreamers, ne’er-do-wells and opportunists, extreme violence both personal and military, and boundless hope. At the edge of empire, amid the deserts and the mountains, it is the story of an obsession passed down the centuries.
**Chosen as a Book of the Year by the Spectator, Listener and Sydney Morning Herald**
Charles Masson is the quixotic and wildly colourful subject of this exceptional biography ... This is a jewel of a book. It rescues Masson from history's cutting-room floor and brings him richly, ripely to life ... Brave, dedicated, endlessly curious, Masson deserves his rediscovery -- James McConnachie * Sunday Times * Only now, with this superb biography, is Masson's tale told in full for the first time. The result, evocatively written, impeccably researched and minutely footnoted, but with the pace and deftly woven plot complexity of a John le Carre novel, is a small masterpiece. It solves most of the mysteries of Masson's story and deserves all the acclaim it will undoubtedly win ... utterly brilliant -- William Dalrymple * Guardian * Masson was one of the most extraordinary of many extraordinary Europeans roaming between Persia and India in the 19th century ... A brilliant and evocative biography, written with consummate scholarship, great style and wit. Through the study of one man, Richardson illuminates an entire world -- Harry Sidebottom * Daily Telegraph * Masson's story is brilliantly retold by Edmund Richardson ... A lucid, thrilling and poetic narrative that does justice to the subject. -- Bijan Omrani * Literary Review * Rarely has a work of non-fiction so brilliantly wrong-footed its readers as Edmund Richardson's Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City, which expertly subverts expectations, interweaving narrative, history and biography throughout ... A remarkable achievement, and that rare thing, a book guaranteed to change your perspective on the world -- Sebastian Milbank * Tablet * Immensely enjoyable ... a highly entertaining representation of the world of 19th-century India and Afghanistan, and of the daredevil antics of an adventurer hooked on the past, looking to survive, prosper and make his mark in a world of shifting sands and shadows * BBC History Magazine * One of the great stories of archaeology, exploration and espionage told in full for the first time - and brought to life with passion, style, scholarship, empathy and anger ... full, extraordinary, heart-breaking ... Edmund Richardson is a new star whose painstaking research and evocative prose has resulted in an utterly brilliant biography. It deserves all the prizes and acclaim it will undoubtedly win. -- William Dalrymple Richardson is a natural teller of such exuberant stories and the book is full of colourful characters -- A. S. H. Smyth * Spectator * Impressive. In a string of spirited encounters classicist Edmund Richardson tails the vagabond antiquarian who called himself Charles Masson to 1830s Afghanistan ... Masson has at last found the intrepid biographer he has so long deserved. -- John Keay
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