Attilio Brilli's book is devoted to the history of travel in the Near East, based on the accounts of a selection of its leading characters. Through stories, literary sources, and paintings, travellers in the period stretching from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th have fed the West's imagination with images of an exotic and erotic, despotic and cruel, elusive and mysterious world, populated by harems, Turkish baths, desert caravans, and so on. But travel in the Near East was also an expression of modern humanity's yearning for the foundations of civilisation and a pilgrimage to the birthplace of monotheist religions, but also a breach and an appropriation of an inaccessible world stretching from the sands of Arabia to the Muslim holy lands, from the sultan's harem to the secret intimacy of private homes. Travel to the Near East sates the western desire for otherness through purification and sun, adventure and vocation.
Attilio Brilli teaches English and American Literature at the University of Siena (Arezzo campus).