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Sailing by Starlight

Capus takes us on an exploratory journey via the loss of a Spanish vessel laden with gold and jewels in the South Seas, the burial of treasure, an ancient map, and a long and dangerous voyage across the Pacific, to prove that Robert Louis Stevenson's 'treasure island' actually exists; and that it exists in a place quite different from where hordes of treasure-hunters have been seeking it for generations. In fact, he posits, it was for this reason alone that Stevenson spent the last five years of his life in Samoa. On a long trip round the Pacific islands with the idea of writing articles for American periodicals, Stevenson, travelling with his beloved wife, Fanny, and stepson Lloyd Osbourne, had no notion of stopping at Samoa when their ship made landfall in December 1889. Yet, only six weeks later, at the age of 39, he would invest all his available assets in a patch of impenetrable jungle and spend the rest of his life there. This book traces what led Stevenson to Samoa and the origins of his famous story. For facing him from this unlikely spot was another island - a conical isle, Tafahi, where legends abound, and it was, Capus suggests, this isle that would cause him to change the course of his life.
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About the Author

Alex Capus (born France, 1961) is a French-Swiss novelist who writes in German. He studied History, Philosophy and Anthropology at Basel University before embarking on a career in journalism. He published his first novel Munzinger Pascha in 1997, and has so far published ten books. Haus published his novel A Matter of Time in 2009.


Praise for Alex Capus's A Matter of Time: 'Capus offers an intriguing scenario and writes laconically, humourfully and well.' The Scottish Review of Books blog 'More evidence that some novels are too good to leave to the imagination comes in the shape of Sailing by Starlight: In search of Treasure Island (Haus) by the Swiss writer Alex Capus. The reason that Stevenson (whom the author calls 'Louis') settled on Samoa six years after publishing his pirate yarn was, we are told, to be near some real buried treasure, hidden on Samoa's 'southern neighbour' Tafahi, by Captain William Thompson. Like all good treasure hunters, Capus sees clues everywhere: 'it seems positively suspicious that [Stevenson] makes no mention' of the (real) treasure island, he writes. It's enough for us: 'We'll have favourable winds, a quick passage, and not the least difficulty in finding the spot, and money to eat - to roll in - to play duck and drake with ever after.' Times Literary Supplement 20100625 'A small, scarlet hardback, slim enough to fit into a pocket, it is nattily designed but published at a paperback price. It recounts a story woven within, and around, two others that millions of readers will already know: one the plot of a much-loved novel published 127 years ago, the other the course of its author's life, combed through at length by so many biographers that it has itself picked up the patina of myth. Confiding, easy-going, intimate, the writer spins a new - a mind-bendingly new - account from this well-worn cloth. Fluent, charming, but mischievous, the story slips past like a tantalising vision but leaves a strange flavour behind.' -- Boyd Tonkin The Independent 20100806 An exhilarating, captivating literary adventure that follows treasure maps, pirate lore and other clues in search of the fabled Treasure Island. Shelf Awareness 20110308 In 1889 Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, made the unlikely decision to settle in Samoa with his wife and stepson. Capus, a French Swiss novelist who writes in German, speculates that perhaps Stevenson knew that it was in close proximity to a real treasure island. Could nearby Tafahi be the location of the lost Lima treasure, stolen from a cathedral in Peru in 1821? Is that why Stevenson spent all his savings to live in an inhospitable area so far from his home in Scotland? Capus describes how Stevenson came to write his most famous work, his unusual family and their life on the island, and stories of other hunters who sought the same treasure in vain. VERDICT With engaging prose, Capus provides conjectural food for thought. Regardless of whether Stevenson found riches, the possibility of life imitating art is tantalizing. A good choice for travel or literary biography readers. Library Journal 20110215

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