Colin Thubron

b. 1939

Colin Thubron was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1969.

Award-winning travel writer and novelist Colin Thubron was born in London on 14 June 1939. Educated at Eton College, he worked briefly for the publishers Hutchinson and as a freelance television film-maker in Turkey, Japan and Morocco. His first book, Mirror to Damascus, was published in 1967. He continued to write about the Middle East in The Hills of Adonis: A Quest in Lebanon (1968) and Jerusalem (1969).

Among the Russians (1983) describes a journey he made by car through western Russia during the Brezhnev era. Behind the Wall: A Journey through China (1987) won both the Hawthornden Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. The Lost Heart of Asia (1994) narrates his travels through the newly-independent central Asian republics, exploring the effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union on the region. He returned to Russia for his most recent travel narrative, In Siberia (1999).

Colin Thubron is also the author of several novels, including a historical fiction, Emperor (1978), set in A.D. 312; A Cruel Madness (1984), winner of the PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award; Falling (1989); Turning Back the Sun (1991), a haunting tale of love and exile; and Distance (1996). To the Last City (2002) tells the story of a group of travellers in Peru, while Night of Fire (2016) is a metaphorical novel in which the inhabitants of one house – perhaps representing the parts of one person’s soul – are trapped in a housefire.

He is a regular contributor and reviewer for magazines and newspapers including The Times, the Times Literary Supplement and The Spectator. He lives in London. His latest travel books are Shadow of the Silk Road (2006), an account of his 7,000-mile journey along the route of the Silk Road; and To a Mountain in Tibet (2011), about his pilgrimage to sacred Mount Kailas.

He was President of the Royal Society of Literature from 2010 – 2017.

Image credit: Sally Soames

Articles by Colin Thubron

Speaking of Love

For LSE's Literary Festival 2013, RSL Fellows A.S. Byatt, Colin Thubron, Helen Simpson and Ben Okri consider four very different aspects of love.

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40 Under 40

As the RSL prepares to elect a band of younger Fellows, nine writers made Fellows in their twenties and thirties remember what it meant to them.

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Amitav Ghosh in conversation with Linda Grant

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Jung Chang in conversation with Colin Thubron

Jung Chang discusses her ground-breaking new biography of Empress Dowager Cixi.

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The Road from Damascus: Colin Thubron considers past versions of himself, and the future of literature

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Karen Armstrong on religion

What is religion? Karen Armstrong speaking about religion; chaired by Colin Thubron.

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To a Mountain in Tibet: Colin Thubron and Victoria Glendinning

Colin Thubron in conversation with Victoria Glendinning about his 2011 book 'To A Mountain in Tibet' at Kings Place, chaired by Michael Holroyd.

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The Lingua Franca: Colin Thubron on translated literature

The President’s address to the AGM: 28 June 2012

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Writing the Silk Road: Colin Thubron in conversation with Tash Aw

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