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Buday, Grant.

Lantzville (B.C.). Oolichan Books. 1987. 104pp, paper. $8.95. ISBN 0-88982-075-9. CIP

Adult/ Secondary
Reviewed by Fred Leicester

Volume 16 Number 5
1988 September

How often have you read a travel adventure book that, although accurately relating geographical features, climate, food, and so on, leaves you feeling as if you have just flipped through a glossy travel brochure? Although this is probably not true of our better travel writers such as Paul Theroux or Jan Morris, most travel writing tends to omit accounts of the accumulated tedium of daily living in alien environments and steers away from psychological insights into the thoughts of the inhabitants.

Author Grant Buday has changed all this in The Venetian. He has blended his own experiences of travelling in the East with his speculations on how Marco Polo, the first great travel writer, and his companions reacted to a new and mysterious culture. Here is Marco reflecting on his years spent in thirteenth-century China. “Twenty-two years now. Collecting experiences like coins. Two black toes ... from the winter crossing of mountains. The shitting sickness. The useless left knee. Eleven teeth left."

The author explores the relationship between Marco and the powerful, inscrutable and implacable Kublai Khan. The reader is party to the changes that Marco's travels have wrought upon the Kahn's mind and to the fears of assassination harboured by Kublai Khan. Heat, cold, drunkenness. Homesickness. The intrigues of court and Lucullan feasting. The Khan's plots to prevent Marco from leaving. The ever present squalor of the life of ordinary men. Thus the warp and weft are woven imaginatively into a realistic tapestry of life in the Great Khan's empire.

With this, his first book, Buday has forever demolished my idealized mental vision of Marco Polo, ermine-clad and clear-eyed, upright on a milk-white Mongolian steed at the head of the gilt-armoured Golden Horde. Nice going Mr. Buday! And nicely written, too.

Fred Leicester, Golden School District, Golden, B.C.
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