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Sindh Revisited: A Journey in the Footsteps of Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton

by Christopher Ondaatje

Sir Richard Burton was easily one of the most intriguing figures of the 19th century – explorer, linguist, orientalist, anthropologist, and, as the translator of the Kama Sutra and a sexual adventurer of some note, a figure of considerable titillation. Sindh Revisited: A Journey in the Footsteps of Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton is Christopher Ondaatje’s homage to his hero, a journey that takes him to many of the places Burton visited during his seven years in India, in an effort to get closer to the mind of the man.

Ondaatje does have one thing in common with his hero – while Burton had an astonishing array of talents and interests, he wasn’t a particularly polished writer. The stories Ondaatje finds, however, are interesting enough to make struggling through rewarding, and much of the photography is compelling. If one treats the book simply as a pilgrimage in the footsteps of a personal hero, it does its job.