There are travellers who have returned to write a book, and then
there are the great writers who travel.
Are they producing travel diaries or literature?
A caricature of the people, or a detailed fresco of the place, is
often all we get from the writer/traveller.
For the lazy traveller/reader, it is a start at a comprehension
between them and us, there and here. But even this is a fruitless exercise. To read
different writers can often mean a transportation to a different place; supposedly the
If we really want to experience the place, we must get up and go
Maybe we have already been to Cairo,
or are seriously contemplating travelling to Timbuktu.
Batuta, in historic reveries and encounters with Golden Kingdoms, can only disillusion
the reader; as the romance is completely lost when Time Magazine reports that Tuareg
rebels attack a convoy of modern-day Trans-Sahara travellers.
These collective characterisations only serve a purpose in their own
split perspectives, because the encountered individuals are only seen from the writer's
point of view.
Raban even tells us that the Theroux on the trains is not the Theroux who stops by on
his houseboat for a cheery, drinky chat.
Because of this, travel literature takes on an almost fictional aura.
The reader is introduced to real characters who may never be met, and transported to
places at the turn of a page.
Cook Travel Book Awards (1980/2004) brought in the heavyweight writers, trying their
hand at travelling; while the traveller filling in a diary, tried to present the
experience in quality writing.
Hemingway was one of the worlds ultimate Literary
Travellers; from Cuba to Kilimanjaro, or bullfighting in Spain, Hemingway was there to
bring you the laughter and the pain.
There are writers who have written great travel books, and there
are great writers who travel.
Theroux, walking around Britain in The Kingdom by the Sea,
may drop in on Jonathan Raban, but his encounter with Borges, in South America, is pure
experience transcribed to manuscript.
Borges is a legend in South American literature, but to his credit, Paul Theroux has
reproduced the greatest travel experiences aboard Asian railways.
Travellers may dream of taking the Trans-Siberian Express but Theroux,
The Iron Rooster, puts us off that seven day extravaganza. Perhaps he was just tired,
and wanted to get home.
Old Patagonian Express can not compare with The Great Railway Bazaar,
except for the meeting with Borges. But Paul Theroux has a knack of getting it right.
No matter which part of Britain you live in, he was there; like a
silent gull devouring the crumbs of custom and accent to return with owl-like words of
A traveller I met in Asia: long hair, open sandals and a British
passport, so long from home that his accent was almost German, claimed to have savoured
Theroux as a far back as the African Novellas, but hated him for what he said about Guatemala.
Eric, the traveller, had lived in the colourful Central American
country, most probably with the Indians, and could not forgive the literary American for
his portrayal of life there. However, it is hot and sweaty, and you can guarantee that a
slice of water melon has more flies upon it than those little black seeds: You try to eat
it, or remain on the train with a parched throat.
To blow the flies off the slice of fruit is a feat more tolerable than
to suffer another gust of warm sand through an open window, in a train that travels slower
than a queue for tickets in India.
So put down that book, get out the map, and remember that the web
is there for you to tell us all about your
travels when you get back; or even by e-mail while you're on the road.
An online travel magazine just for woman, with first person accounts from women
Check out some of the writers on Travel Notes or submit your own travel writing for
Plenty of interesting features here too.
Links to a variety of personal travelogues written by travellers on world-wide adventures.
Travel on Twitter:
There's also a lot of interesting people writing about travel on Twitter; trying to use
less than 140 characters to get their point across.
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