The Storied City

The Storied City

The Quest for Timbuktu and the Fantastic Mission to Save Its Past

Book - 2017
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The story of how a team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts into hiding when al-Qaeda-linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012, threatening the existence of these precious documents. Relying on extensive research and firsthand reporting, Charlie English expertly twines a fraught and fascinating account of one of the planet's extraordinary places, and the myths from which it has become inseparable. --
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2017
ISBN: 9781594634284
Branch Call Number: 966.23 En362S 2017
Characteristics: 400 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm


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Sep 13, 2017

English is a British journalist, attempting to write a history, which causes him some problems. The writing itself is often excellent, and often his research is good. But the book is confusing because he's putting together several stories. First is the Western view of how Timbuktu, in what is now Mali, and how it was hidden from Western eyes for thousands of years. Another is the late 18th and 19th c. story of Western attempts to find Timbuktu and exploit its resources for Western purposes. Finally is the story of the 2011-2013 war between the Mali government and Jihadists to take over that government. The jihadists wanted the treasures long believed to exist in the town. But that treasure turned out to be not streets paved with gold, or roofs sheathed in gold, but manuscripts, some dating back nearly 1000 years. The local librarians, some with the help of aid agencies, spent anxious days getting hundreds of thousands of manuscripts to safety in the country's capital. Others were hidden in plain sight under the noses of the jihadists, many of whom were illiterate and didn't know what they were searching for. English goes back and forth between all these stories, which is often confusing even though he tries to date each chapter and provide a heading for where it takes place. The story is an important one; I just wish it were better written.


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