The best travel books show the conflict between writer and place

“What is a travel book? For me it is the story of what happened to one person in a particular place, and nothing more than that; it does not contain hotel and highway information, lists of useful phrases, statistics, or hints as to what kind of clothing is to be needed by the intending visitor. It may be that such books form a category which is doomed to extinction. I hope not, because there is nothing I enjoy more than reading an accurate account by an intelligent writer of what happened to him away from home. The subject matter of the best travel books is the conflict between writer and place. It is not important which of them carries the day, so long as the struggle is faithfully recorded. It takes a writer with a gift for describing a situation to do this well, which is perhaps the reason why so many of the travel books that remain in the memory have been produced by writers expert at the fashioning of novels. One remembers Evelyn Waugh’s insignation in Ethiopia, Graham Green deadpanning through West Africa, Aldous Huxley letting Mexico get him down, Gide discovering his social conscience in the Congo, long after other equally accurate travel accounts have blurred and vanished. Given the novelistic skill of these particular writers it is perhaps perverse of me to prefer their few travel pieces to their novels, but I do.”
–Paul Bowles, “The Challenge to Identity” (1958)

Posted by | Comments Off on The best travel books show the conflict between writer and place  | June 25, 2012
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

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