Christopher Columbus's life is proof that the process of discovery doesn't begin or end with landfall. Columbus didn't go looking for a new world and, despite spending years bopping around the Caribbean committing atrocities, he never truly divined the magnitude of what he had found. The distance between Columbus's perception of his accomplishments and reality was vast and proved impossible for even him navigate.
In his new book Columbus: The Four Voyages, Laurence Bergreen charts the rise and fall of Columbus as an explorer and as a man, fleshing out the parts of Columbus's story that often go unmentioned in the rush to either commend or condemn.
By focusing on the explorer's latter journeys and delving deeply into his relationships with native people, his sponsors and the almighty, Bergreen succeeds at telling an amazing and appalling story about a man who lived on such a tremendous scale that his pride upon discovering a passageway to heaven barely diluted his shame over failing to find China.
Columbus never made it to North America -- he just missed the Florida Keys -- but in Bergreen's hands his is a sort of proto-American tragedy with shades of Howard Hughes. Faced down by an impossible thought, that he'd been right about the world's shape but wrong about its contents, Columbus raged at everything and everyone, leaving behind him a significant body count and a sticky legacy.
Laurence Bergreen, who is also the author of Over The Edge Of The World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation Of The Globe, spoke to HuffPost Travel about the layers of man and myth that make up our modern perception of the great explorer.