13 Pages
English

John Man, Genghis Khan, Life, Death, and Resurrection

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John Man, Genghis Khan, Life, Death, and Resurrection

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John Man,New York: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2004. ISBN 0-312-31444-2. 388 pp. including bibliography and index.  Genghis Khan, Life, Death, and Resurrection. Dr. Alicia J. Campi  With the approach of 2006 and Mongolia’s celebration of 800 years of its statehood, interest in the country’s founding father, Chinggis [Genghis] Khan, is increasing greatly. There are two new biographies which have captured the attention of the English-speaking world, and it was my original intention to compare these popular books in the same essay. However, since the books are very different in approach, each book merits separate discussion. John Man’s biography of Genghis Khan follows on the heels of his successful travelogue of a few years ago, Gobi: Tracking the Desert. Unfortunately, this new work is full of problems and in many ways is not a serious biography. Still, Man writes for the popular audience and his work may especially influence British readers, so it cannot be ignored. Furthermore, there are elements to this book which are unique, as the author seeks to go beyond the mere recitation of events of Chinggis Khan’s life as revealed by the contemporaneous sources. Rather he has fashioned a biography which includes intriguing chapters on Tangut (Hsi Hsia [Xi Xia]) ruins in Ningxia and the Inner Mongolian shrine at Ejen Khoroo. Man’s text includes a mish mash of transliteration of names and spellings, which is not unusual for a person unfamiliar with Mongolian and Chinese. However, one wonders why he did not give the text to Mongolists such as Charles Bawden and Igor de Rachewiltz, whom he thanks in his ‘Acknowledgements,’ to assist him with standardization. In fact, the author deliberately cultivates the perception that he can command the linguistic difficulties so well known to scholars of the Secret History. He (“with help”) brazenly claims to have checked with the ‘original’ text of the Secret History to refute an identification of ‘grasshopper’ by the eminent Francis Cleaves, to