Philip Marsden returns to the remote, fiercely beautiful land whose powerful mythic appeal has fascinated him all his life to explore its legacy of independence, civil war and brutal repression.
'Ethiopia bred in me the conviction that if there is any wider purpose to our life, it is to understand the world, to seek out its diversity, to celebrate its heroes and its wonders – in short, to witness it.'
When Philip Marsden first went to Ethiopia in 1982, it changed the direction of his life. What he saw of its astonishing antiquity, its raw medieval Christianity, its extremes of brutality and grace produced in him a restless curiosity, and made him a writer.
But Ethiopia at that time was torn apart by civil war. The north, the ancient heartland of the country, was closed off. Twenty years later, Marsden returned. The Chains of Heaven is the account of a journey deferred. Walking hundreds of miles through a landscape of cavernous gorges, tabletop mountains and semi-desert, he encounters monks and hermits, rebels and farmers, people whose spiritual passions reveal a reckless disregard for the material. He stays in isolated homesteads, climbs to monasteries accessible only by ox-hide rope or by chain. He creates an unforgettable picture of one of the most remote regions left on earth, and explores the ambiguities of a nation and a Church fiercely proud of their independence but also shackled by it.
Even more than in his award-winning The Spirit-Wrestlers, Philip Marsden reminds us of what travel narrative can achieve. In spare and glinting prose, The Chains of Heaven celebrates the ageless rewards of the open road and a people for whom the mythic and the everyday are still inextricably joined.
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Praise for The Spirit Wrestlers:
‘Marsden has movingly captured these communities in a series of exquisitely drawn word pictures. His encounters sing with a lyric intensity and he approaches his subjects with the clarity of a historian and the pity of a tragic dramatist.’ – Amanda Foreman, Independent
‘Marsden … has painted a picture of the land between the Black Sea and the Caspian which can only leave us aghast with wonder.’ – Teresa Waugh, Literary Review
‘Having turned the last page of Philip Marsden’s book, I sincerely regretted that it was my first encounter with this excellent travel writer. The Spirit-Wrestlers charmed me’ – Vitali Vitaliev, Daily Telegraph
Praise for The Bronski House:
‘Magnificent… a Polish Wild Swans meets Dr Zhivago, written in some of the most exquisite prose in the genre since the death of Chatwin.’ – William Dalrymple, Sunday Times Books of the Year
‘A tragic story, beautifully told.’ – Colin Thubron, Daily Telegraph Books of the Year
‘The book I’ve savoured most this year.’ – John Fowles, Spectator Books of the YearAbout the Author:
Philip Marsden is the author of A Far Country: Travels in Ethiopia, The Crossing Place: Among the Armenians (which won the Somerset Maugham Award), The Bronski House, The Spirit-Wrestlers: And Other Survivors of the Russian Century (WINNER OF THE Thomas Cook Travel Book of the Year Award) and the novel The Main Cages. He is the editor of The Spectator Book of Travel Writing and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His work has been translated into ten languages.
Philip Marsden lives in Cornwall.
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