How one can tether your camel and different helpful ideas

On Journey and the Journey By way of Life

edited by Barnaby Rogerson

Eland, pp. 142, £9.99

Right here’s a deal with for Christmas: a bona fide literary treasure for beneath a tenner. And a good-looking little hardback, too, which you might definitely squeeze right into a stocking. On Journey and the Journey By way of Life is an anthology of one-liners and observations on journey, from the high-spirited and romantic to the moody and downright cynical.

In relation to journey writing, all roads lead a method or one other to Eland, that elegant writer and gritty survivor. All types of good folks say good issues about Eland. Colin Thubron, the doyen of journey writers, to quote only one, admires its ‘practically extinct integrity’ and ‘eccentric ardour for high quality’. And that is what this little quantity gives in spades, together with wit, knowledge, eccentricity and piercing perception that – if you happen to take it actually – could have you switching off your laptop computer, dumping your cellphone and heading off into the closest wilderness, vacation spot unknown, which is simply accurately.

I began dog-earing the pages with among the most memorable or life-enhancing quotes after which gave up as a result of I used to be doing it on nearly each one. ‘To awaken alone in an odd city is likely one of the pleasantest sensations on the earth,’ writes that doughty traveller Freya Stark. ‘By no means hesitate to go far-off, past all seas, all frontiers, all nations, all beliefs,’ says Amin Maalouf. It’s tremendously moreish. The vary is dizzying – Heraclitus, Oscar Wilde, Che Guevara, Gandhi, Man de Maupassant, Montaigne, Václav Havel, Kalahari bushmen, and so it goes on – the observations as broad and alluring because the farthest horizon.

There’s the pithy. For a technology besieged by anxiousness and psychological well being points, can something beat St Augustine’s two-word life-fix: ‘Solvitur ambulando’
–it’s solved by strolling? Sixteen hundred years later, it stays the abiding expression of our preternatural must shake a leg and journey, an inspiration to pedestrians the world over, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Bruce Chatwin amongst them.

After which there’s the extra long-winded, resembling this from Mark Twain (regardless of the final three phrases sounding vaguely like a Tui vacation advert):

Twenty years from now, you can be extra dissatisfied by the issues that you simply didn’t do than by those you probably did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the protected harbour. Catch the commerce winds in your sail. Discover. Dream. Uncover.

We’ve got the unlikely and surprising, as with this injunction from the Prophet Mohammed: ‘Don’t inform me how educated you’re, inform me how a lot you could have travelled.’ Jesus makes the reduce, too, advising his disciples to not take gold, silver or copper on their travels. If folks received’t obtain them in a home or city, he tells them, ‘shake the mud of it off your ft’. Homer wades in from the Stygian depths of just about 3,000 years in the past. ‘Is he not sacred, even to the gods, the wandering man who is available in weariness?’, an exhausted Odysseus asks the unknown river god.

The sensible and prosaic go together with the artfully literary. ‘Don’t be paranoid – a lot better to be open and stuffed with belief with folks,’ the journey author Hugh Thomson rightly advises, earlier than plunging within the knife. ‘And those who’re paranoid all the time get mugged anyway.’ There are competing views on the deserves of travelling alone, prime ideas, resembling taking tea as a universally common present, recommendation on spare pants, packing a harmonica, tethering your camel and shunning luxurious just like the plague. It’s, Paul Theroux reckons, ‘the enemy of commentary’.

Don’t suppose that is all honey-coated, rose-tinted romance. Journey sceptics are nicely catered for, too. Within the phrases of the American creator and journalist Elizabeth Drew: ‘Too typically journey, as an alternative of broadening the thoughts, merely lengthens the dialog.’ And what about this from that Corbynista Cynic, Diogenes: ‘In a wealthy man’s home there isn’t a place to spit however his face.’

Among the distilled knowledge is nothing to do with journey, strictly talking – Rogerson calls the ultimate chapter ‘Sensible Tweets for a Postcard Dwelling’ – however who says it doesn’t have a bearing on the ‘journey by way of life’ of the e-book’s title? Dorothy Parker writes her means into the anthology with typical pizzazz: ‘Too fucking busy and vice versa.’ Leigh Fermor knew a factor or two about reminiscence and its limitations. His ‘Nice Trudge’ from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople as an 18-year-old in 1933 outlived the person who made it to 96. ‘Trivial issues mild fuses within the reminiscence,’ he wrote in Between the Woods and the Water, the glowing second quantity of his posthumously completed trilogy.

We might do worse than finish with George Orwell and some phrases that may have Spectator readers cheering the unrepentant, impoverished socialist to the rafters: ‘Free speech is my proper to say what you don’t wish to hear.’

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