Mandeville by Matthew Francis is a fascinating collection of poems reworking the travels of the enigmatic medieval explorer Sir John Mandeville.
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The Travels of Sir John Mandeville was one of the most popular books of the later Middle Ages. Purporting to describe the circumnavigation of an English knight through Africa, India, and the Middle East in 1322, the narrative is a fantastical collection of sights: seas, islands, phoenixes, pyramids, rocks that enchant ships and apes that contain human souls, interwoven with geographical descriptions that are perfectly accurate. Matthew Francis’s new collection is a sequence of poems that celebrate and give voice to Mandeville, in his own words, caught as he is between physical and symbolic geographies, between a world that is round and one that has Jerusalem at its centre. And all of it narrated in the terse, solitary, conflicted and strangely passionate voice of this medieval Crusoe whose very existence was disputed.
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