Author(s): Iliya Troyanov
"The Collector of Worlds" is a rare combination of literary achievement and popular accessibility. A bestseller in Germany, the novel tells the story of Sir Richard Burton, one of the most flamboyant figures of the Victorian age. Burton was the first westerner to make the hajj to Mecca, and discovered the source of the Nile with Speke. His translation of the "Arabian Nights" is one of the great moments in the encounter between Islam and the West, a version of the Arab classic that scandalised his contemporaries with its salty eroticism. Troyanov's novel does full justice to this great, controversial mediator between cultures. The book imagines his encounter with India as a young officer, and other episodes in his life are seen through the eyes of his Indian servant; the Sharif of Mecca, who is conducting an enquiry into Burton's audacious journey and its consequences for the Ottoman Empire; and a former slave who guided Burton to the Nile.