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Thubron, Colin

Colin Thubron

Elected: 1969

Year of birth: 1939

Image credit: Sally Soames

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.

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Fellows are nominated by peers and elected by our Council of writers – our governing Board. Being elected a Fellow of the RSL is a lifetime honour. This role gives them the opportunity to support other writers, readers and the future of literature. The RSL connects writers in the Fellowship to one another, and to a wider readership.