"A gripping read with fascinating political insight." (Sunday Times, London)
"Elegant, elegiac and poignant...Thubron is an intrepid traveler, a shrewd observer and a lyrical guide... to the river, much of it along the border between these two powers at a time of rapid and tense reconfiguration of global geopolitics." (Washington Post)
“The Amur River shows Thubron to be at the peak of his powers… as one of our greatest prose writers in any genre. But The Amur River is not just beautifully written: it is also a work of great importance…Thubron uses the Amur River as a metaphor to deal with the relationship of two countries now regarded by many as the greatest threat to the West in these dying days of the U.S. Imperium.” (Daily Telegraph)
The most admired travel writer of our time—author of Shadow of the Silk Road and To a Mountain in Tibet—recounts an eye-opening, often perilous journey along a little known Far East Asian river that for over a thousand miles forms the highly contested border between Russia and China.
The Amur River is almost unknown. Yet it is the tenth longest river in the world, rising in the Mongolian mountains and flowing through Siberia to the Pacific. For 1,100 miles it forms the tense border between Russia and China. Simmering with the memory of land-grabs and unequal treaties, this is the most densely fortified frontier on earth.
In his eightieth year, Colin Thubron takes a dramatic journey from the Amur’s secret source to its giant mouth, covering almost 3,000 miles. Harassed by injury and by arrest from the local police, he makes his way along both the Russian and Chinese shores, starting out by Mongolian horse, then hitchhiking, sailing on poacher’s sloops or travelling the Trans-Siberian Express. Having revived his Russian and Mandarin, he talks to everyone he meets, from Chinese traders to Russian fishermen, from monks to indigenous peoples. By the time he reaches the river’s desolate end, where Russia’s nineteenth-century imperial dream petered out, a whole, pivotal world has come alive.
The Amur River is a shining masterpiece by the acknowledged laureate of travel writing, an urgent lesson in history and the culmination of an astonishing career.
Colin Thubron is an acclaimed travel writer and novelist. His first books were about the Middle East – Damascus, Lebanon and Cyprus. In 1982 he travelled by car into the Soviet Union, a journey he described in Among the Russians. From these early experiences developed his classic travel books: Behind the Wall: A Journey through China (winner of the Hawthornden Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Award), The Lost Heart of Asia, In Siberia (Prix Bouvier), Shadow of the Silk Road and To a Mountain in Tibet.
Among other honors, Colin Thubron has received the Ness award of the Royal Geographical Society and the Livingstone Memorial Medal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs. In 2007 he was made CBE. He was elected President of the Royal Society of Literature from 2010 to 2017, and named an RSL Companion of Literature in 2020.