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“Travels With Herodotus” and “Marco Polo Didn’t Go There”

Traveling as the Core problem in the Compared Books

Traveling notes have always been interesting and exciting for both, the writer of them and the reader. Different people, visiting the same countries may write absolutely different works about these countries as personal perception in traveling is one of the main characteristic feature of literary works of such type. There are two literary pieces, which should be compared in the paper, Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuściński, the work, which was published in 2007, and Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer by Rolf Potts, who published his work in 2008. The central themes of Kapuściński and Potts are similar, various countries and their traditions are discussed. Being similar in the opinion that traveling is a great thing to do but still the conclusions about the same countries are different in some cases.

The symbolic meaning of the titles in the books

Starting with the similarities of the discussed books, the notable issue should be identified, that is the titles of the books, and particularly the symbols they represent. The authors of the traveling notes used the famous people of the whole mankind. Herodotus and Marko Polo are known all over the world for their contributions in the understanding of the world from different points of view. The both authors from time to time turn to their idols in the books, either to Herodotus or Marko Polo with the remarks about the suppositions what they could choose, say or feel in the definite situations. Such deviation from the main theme of the telling makes the reader think a little, to have time to perceive the received information and to think about it from the other point of view.

Biographical events as the main significance of the books compared

Furthermore, the both works are partially biographical, as all the events, which are discussed in the books, participated by the authors. Moreover, the books are written from the point of personal perception, in other words, the authors had to perceive the country or event discussed, and from the point of view of his considerations, represented the material to the reader. In fact, the personal opinions in the books by these different authors are the main similar features of these books, which, in addition, made them the great literary works. No rough facts are introduced in the books, just interesting and notable events, which were chosen by the authors. The personal opinion about the discussed theme is important, especially when the conversation is about other countries, as it is impossible to tell about the customs of the other nation without personal evaluation and analysis of the given information. One more similar feature in the books is that they are written from the first person narration, “I” is the only opinion, which is given in the books.

The personality choice in the books: Ryszard Kapuściński’s concentration on Herodotus, and Rolf Potts’s description of Marco Polo’s traveling

In fact, there are much more differences in the books, which are compared, than similarities. First, famous people, chosen as the collaborators of the books worked in absolutely different fields. Marco Polo was the traveler, who went to different countries, gathered some statistical information about the countries, he visited, collected some facts about their traditions, and by means of this he created his personal opinion about the country. Herodotus, vice versa, was more historian, than geographer, and the information, he collected during his traveling, was more about history of the country, he visited, the customs and traditions were investigated more than the territory, climate or other statistical information.

The conversion to Marco Polo and Herodotus is also provided in different ways. Ryszard Kapuściński knew nothing about Herodotus and traveling the world, he got to know more and more about his life and considerations about this or that country. Rolf Potts, vice versa, was considered about Marco Polo’s life and wanted to approximate his traveling to those, made by Marco Polo. In other words, Ryszard Kapuściński got to know more and more about Herodotus through the countries he visited, while Rolf Potts tried to follow Marco Polo’s steps, and began to consider countries after Marco Polo’s visiting them. But still, these journeys did not have the character Marco Polo gave them, as while his traveling, he went from one country to the other and returned home, and Rolf Potts skipped from one country to the other, relying to his heart desires.

The differences of the introduction of the event in the works of different authors

Being personally considered, the works still represent different nature of the description in their works. Rolf Potts introduces people he saw, his interrelation to them, their conversations, while Ryszard Kapuściński relied mostly on his opinion, and the only side insertions, which are mostly provided in the end of the chapters and parts, are his notes about what else may be made in the country, what other information or activity should be considered while the next coming to the country.

India as an example in Kapuściński’s and Potts’s books

Taking India as the example to show differences and similarities in the conclusions, made by Ryszard Kapuściński and Rolf Potts in their works, it should be mentioned that this country left indelible impression in their minds. Talking about India, Ryszard Kapuściński wrote such facts, which cannot be paraphrased, as he was inspired by the country a lot, “India is all about infinity – an infinity of gods and myths, beliefs and languages, races and cultures” (Kapuściński 28) and “India was so immense. How can one describe something that is – and so it seemed to me – without boundaries or end?” (Kapuściński 34). In addition, India was the place and the reason Kapuściński started to be interested in Herodotus and his traveling around the world.

Shifting to the same theme about India by Rolf Potts, the first fact, that strikes attention, is that the country did not impress the traveler, he was not amazed as Ryszard Kapuściński was, and his description about India starts with the words “What I remember most about India was how poor it was. You had to be careful when you took your shower, because kids from the town would sneak up and steal your soap” (Potts 302). Rolf Potts did not see the beauty of the country, as his attention was paid to other aspects of the nation’s life. His is what was meant when the discussion turned to personal vision and perceiving of the facts and their influence on the discussion.

In conclusion, having considered the books by Ryszard Kapuściński and Rolf Potts, it was concluded that being absolutely different pieces of writing, these works are similar in themes, they discuss various countries and their traditions, being similar in the opinion that traveling is a great thing to do but still the conclusions about the same countries are different in some cases. The famous travelers are taken as the companions of their journeys, the description is provided from the first person perspective, but the description is different, the opinions about the same countries are opposite.

Works Cited

Kapuściński, Ryszard. Travels with Herodotus. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2007. Print.

Potts, Rolf. Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade.


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