The epiphanies of travel + Writing a travel book is an absurd undertaking

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The epiphanies of alternative travel
https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/boo...d-identity

EXCERPT: . . . Europeans tend to imagine themselves as standing in the present and peering forwards into a murky future, with the past behind them. But Maoris adopted the opposite mental posture.[...] As one anthropologist has put it, the Maoris were ‘walking backwards into the future’. Their gaze was firmly fixed on the past. And the idea of progress was absent.”

Norman Davies came to this realisation during a six-month journey around the world, begun in the first half of 2012, which included a spell in New Zealand. During his stay he travelled from the southernmost tip of South Island to the northernmost tip of North Island. Using road, rail and ferry, it was a journey that took over a month and covered a thousand miles. The reward, he writes, was “enchantment”. It was not only the beauty of the country that Davies appreciated. One of the benefits associated with travel has been that the mind is opened to other ways of thinking, and there can be few more striking illustrations of this than the discovery that a forward-looking sense of time is not universal.

By itself, travel cannot produce such epiphanies. “In a world where travel has lost many of its mental and physical exertions,” Davies writes, “one meets people who fly thousands of miles to do a bit of shopping in Dubai, to lie on a beach in Bali, or to watch a cricket match in Adelaide… Some travellers travel enormous distances and keep all their preconceptions intact.” Having spent much of his career reassessing received narratives of the events that formed the world we live in, Davies wanted to do something quite different. He aimed to circumnavigate the world with a view to seeing its countries and cultures in new ways – an exercise that required close and deep knowledge of their histories.

Another motive for Davies’s journey may have been late-life wanderlust....

MORE: https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/boo...d-identity



Writing a travel book is an absurd undertaking
http://www.publicbooks.org/the-horticult...-the-self/

EXCERPT: . . . The antithesis of a swashbuckling hero, Leiris is assailed by doubts—and by insects: “All these days remain hollow. My motions are purely mechanical. Again, I am being driven to hate my companions.” And: “I am being devoured by fleas.” Pages are devoted to the mundane logistics and challenges of the expedition: trucks stuck on bad roads, protracted negotiations with donkey and mule owners, the car sickness of an expedition dog, Potamo. Exasperated, Leiris reflects, “Writing a travel book is an absurd undertaking.” The absurdity takes the form of a ubiquitous, swirling undercurrent, rather than the sudden flashes of defamiliarization you might expect from a writer who made his reputation as a surrealist and was chosen by Griaule for the expedition, though he had no ethnographic experience, because of a mutual affiliation with Georges Bataille’s journal Documents....

MORE: http://www.publicbooks.org/the-horticult...-the-self/
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