Spice is one of the most local things there is. Cinnamon bark comes from Sri Lanka. Cloves once only grew on the tiny Maluku Islands east of Indonesia. Nutmeg only existed on the volcanic Banda Islands.
Nevertheless, these rare, marvelous growths have become the most widespread commodities in world history: a source of globalization and empire building, contact and conflict, exchange and exploitation from the very oldest civilizations to the present day. Reinertsen Berg follows the strands of spices back to earth’s ancient history, explaining why the unique plants grow exactly where they do and what is so special about them. He takes us to China and India, Egypt and the Roman Empire, and shows how spice plants controlled trade routes, cultural development, and economies. He illustrates the connection between spices and the Western colonization of the world from the late Middle Ages to the present day.
Reinertsen Berg has previously shown that he is a writer who takes literary initative – for example with Theatre of the World. Once again, he has demonstrated his masterful ability to gather threads in an impressive piece that is a joy to read. The book is also spiced with a generous supply of anecdotes and literary texts that range from everything from the Books of Moses to Chinese poets from the first dynasties, not to mention recipes from cookbooks spanning cultures and eras. The book also abounds with botanical posters, paintings, and other colorful illustrations.
This is professional nonfiction storytelling at it’s best. (…) With cloves and nutmeg, ginger and cardamom, pepper and cinnamon, Berg writes about colonial and trade story in the most interesting way.
The magnificent scents of spices, delicious food and intoxicating lotions, not to mention the stench of naval battles and trade wars are rising from these pages. It’s a riveting read.
Praise for Theatre of the World: …A tour de force with the history of maps. He starts with the very first pictures of the world… and takes on the images of the world, systematic, well written, fun and educational. The book is exceptionally well illustrated… An exquisite and distinctive nonfiction book.
The Brage Prize Jury
We are great admirers of Thomas Reinertsen Berg’s talent. We love his wit, his ability to share knowledge and his heart for storytelling. Here at ZNAK Literanova, we were very happy to publish the Theatre of the World and now we can’t wait to introduce To the Ends of the Earth to a Polish audience.
Ewa Bolińska, ZNAK Literanova