Robert Twigger

Robert Twigger (born in Brno) is a British writer and novelist.


Robert Twigger is best known for his book about living and doing martial arts in Japan: entitled Angry White Pyjamas, it has earned numerous awards, and in 2007, all 5,000 Waterstones Bookshop staff voted it the best sports book of the last 25 years, beating such favourites as Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch. Twigger has written fiction and non-fiction. His novel Dr Ragab's Universal Language is set in the city of Cairo where he lives. He has won the Somerset Maugham Award and the Newdigate Prize – the world's oldest poetry award still in existence, whose previous winners have included Oscar Wilde and John Ruskin.

Educated in arts and sciences, Robert Twigger studied Engineering briefly at Balliol College, Oxford, before changing to Philosophy. In the late 1980s he made several underground films and worked on the Raymond Briggs feature When the Wind Blows. He left the United Kingdom in 1991 and traveled and lived abroad for much of the next six years, in Japan, Indonesia, India and France.

His short work Zenslacker Manifesto, inspired partly by Zen and other teachings, was praised by The Idler founder Tom Hodgkinson as "Brilliant. Very wise." A substantial part of Zenslacker was subsequently published in The Idler.

In addition to having written six non-fiction/autobiographical travel books, he also writes articles for newspapers and magazines such as the Daily Telegraph, Maxim and Esquire, and this area of his work has led him to train in bullfighting in Spain and report on chain gangs in Arizona.

The autobiographical sequence that begins with Angry White Pyjamas and ends with Lost Oasis whilst using the conventional format of the travel book is a sustained meditation on such subjects as authenticity, the need for adventure and the role of the polymath.

His interest in polymathy has lead to a detailed study of the subject. One result of this is the polymathic main character Dr Ragab in the novel of the same name.

In talks he has given on "Lifeshifting", Twigger has emphasised the need to centre one's life around meaning-driven motives rather than financial or status-driven motivation. Drawing on his experiences working with indigenous peoples from around the world, he has spoken on 'work tribes' and 'modern nomadism'. Using material derived from studies in polymathy he has also taught various methods of rapid learning.

A Channel 4 documentary, entitled Big Snake, was made of his journey to Indonesia where he captured the world's longest snake, a reticulated python.

In 2004 he completed an epic three-year, two-thousand-mile journey across North West Canada in the wake of eighteenth-century explorer and trapper Alexander Mackenzie. Twigger and his team were the first to successfully complete this route since 1793.

In 2005 and 2006 he spent several months in the Sahara Desert searching for lost oases. He makes regular desert journeys with the expedition group "The Explorer School".

He has published several poetry collections including one in 2003 with Nobel prize winner Doris Lessing.

Selected works

  • Angry White Pyjamas (1997), an account of his year spent training at the Yoshinkan Aikido Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, Japan. (The book won the Somerset Maugham Award and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 1998).
  • Big Snake (1999), the story of his journey to Indonesia to attempt to capture the longest snake in the world.
  • The Extinction Club (2001), an account of Twigger's research into the Milu, a species of deer which was thought to have become extinct.
  • Being a Man (in the lousy modern world) (2002), Twigger's thoughts and observations on the nature of masculinity and its current state at the beginning of the 21st-century.
  • Voyageur - Across the Rocky Mountains in a Birchbark Canoe (2006), the story of his three year epic, two thousand mile journey across North West Canada in the wake of eighteenth century explorer and trapper Alexander Mackenzie.
  • Lost Oasis: A Desert Adventure: In Search Of Paradise (2007), in search of paradise: a desert adventure in the footsteps of seasoned explorers such as Theodore Almasy (the inspiration for The English Patient) who tried to locate the lost oasis of Zezura, reportedly home to hordes of treasure, flocks of birds and a lush, verdant valley.
  • Real Men Eat Puffer Fish (2008) – humorous yet workable advice – a kind of dangerous book for men.

External links

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