India: The Shimmering Dream
by Max Reisch
Translated by Alison Falls
Panther Publishing, Ltd. 2010
List Price: $17.95
webBikeWorld.com Book Review by Glenn W.
Our friends at Panther Publishing have done it again!
They have resurrected another gem, entitled India: The Shimmering Dream by Max Reisch. The book is subtitled "The first overland journey to India by motorcycle in 1933" and it's a fantastic read.
Regular webBikeWorld readers will know that Panther Publishing in the UK is a leader in digging up some of the most fantastic vintage motorcycle books ever written and making them available to a new audience of motorcycle riders. Panther books are distributed in the U.S.A. by Motorsport Publications.
It's a real pleasure to discover Panther Publishing gems like The Rugged Road (review) by Theresa Wallach, who -- in 1934, mind you -- rode a 600 cc motorcycle with a sidecar and trailer down the entire length of Africa. Did I mention that was in 1934? Think of the roads -- or lack thereof -- in Africa in those days.
And a woman doing this in the 1930's? Unthinkable! Sorry guys, but today's farkeled-out GS owner can't ride through a tank of gas without GPS, Bluetooth cell phone connection, a fifteen-hundred-buck Klim outfit and a hydration bladder full of electrolytes. Making a trip like Wallach's in 1934 is nearly beyond comprehension.
Or how about Fay Taylour, "Queen of Speedway" (review)? Speedway, kind of like American oval dirt track racing, is a dangerous rough-and-tumble sport today. Imagine what it was like in the 1920's? Safety gear? Helmets? Knox armor? Feh! Taylor was so good at it that the men in charge banned women from the sport. In 1930!
The point here is that we as motorcyclists think we've seen and done it all, yet so many have come before, paving the way for us by eating dirt and busting knuckles the hard way.
These are absolutely amazing stories that would be lost to history without notice if Panther Publishing hadn't brought them to light of day for modern eyes. So muchas gracias to Panther and here's my advice to all webBikeWorld readers: take advantage of Panther's work and buy these books! You won't be disappointed.
I think India: The Shimmering Dream is the best so far. And I can't be the only one who thinks so, because the book has been in continuous (albeit limited) publication since it was first published in German in the 1940's.
It's a remarkable story of the very young Austrian, Max Reisch, who early on got the urge to travel -- by motorcycle -- just like many of us do today. But this was 1933, and his passion was to be the first to travel overland to India on a motorcycle!
Imagine trying to undertake a trip like that on a 250 cc Puch motorcycle in 1933 -- with his passenger (Herbert Tichy) and a full set of luggage, including a tent, sleeping gear, a typewriter and large format camera!
Needless to say, it's an incredible story that is very entertaining and well illustrated with Reisch's old photos. Wanderlust was in Max Reisch's genes; his father was also a motorcycle wanderer at the beginning of two-wheel time and the gene is still there. Max's son Peter now keeps the Reisch family archive alive and well in Austria with documents and artifacts of his father's long career in exploration that started with the overland trip to India.
The translation by Alison Falls, who is also a motorcyclist, starts out a bit stilted and perhaps too literal, but she soon works up to it and the story is so fascinating that one quickly looks past the translation and through the eyes of Max himself.
It's an easy and very enjoyable read and the photos taken by Reisch are plentiful, so all told this is a must-have. You'll never again complain about chain restaurant road food once you learn what this pair went through on their amazing and, at the time, ground-breaking and historical adventure.
Review Date: December 2010
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