The Amur River forms part of the border between Russia and China, rising in the mountains of Mongolia and emptying into the Pacific. Using local guides, Colin Thubron, a world famous eighty-year-old travel writer, follows the border via the river. There have been huge movements in the border over time and it is still a very sensitive area. Thubron ignores all risks and ploughs ahead using his rusty Russian and Mandarin to connect (sometimes involuntarily) with interesting locals, border guards and police. Things go wrong, sustaining an early injury, whilst answering the question of what he is doing there and is he a spy? En route, we get history, geography and cultural lessons and an understanding of what happens in this unknown part of the world.
‘Magnificent… Colin Thubron’s observations on the relationship between Russia and China are full of insight, from which the world can benefit as it faces the challenges of the twenty-first century’ Jung Chang
Follow our greatest travel writer (and rusty Mandarin speaker) along the far eastern river that separates Russia from China, the two great ex-Communist giants, taking in Mongolia, Siberia and the Sea of Japan
'Thubron on top form. Richly detailed, immaculately written and full of insights and encounters that bring a complex corner of the world to life' Michael Palin
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. Haunted by 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.