Don Hosek - Past reading - Travel

This is the archive of my reading. Soon, I'll put in the subject subindexes.

What I've been read in the past - Travel
The Cruel Way: Switzerland to Afghanistan in a Ford, 1939 by Ella Maillart
[Finished 11 February 2021] This is another one of the free e-books I got from the University of Chicago press. It’s an interesting enough text, although the cultural perspective of Europeans in the Middle East and South Asia towards the residents and customs of that area was highly distracting. Overall the book had little to hold my attention.

The Lost City of Z by David Gann
[Finished 8 January 2013] A mix of personal narrative, history and geography, focusing on the explorer Percy Fawcett’s quest for the remnants of a lost civilization in the Amazon. Intermingling elements of the author’s own research (including journeying to the Amazon himself), we’re given a fairly compelling account of Fawcett’s exploration with the added bonus of an archaeologist’s account of the true story of the lost Amazonian civilization.

American Notes for General Circulation and Pictures from Italy by Charles Dickens
[Finished 28 April 2008] An interesting pair of books. These are Dickens’s travel accounts of trips to America and Italy. As a detailed accounting of what life was like in each country in the first half of the nineteenth century, these are great accountings. Dickens at times comes across as one of those grumpy travelers for whom nothing abroad can be anything better than an inconvenience or a pale attempt at doing something which is done far better at home, but getting beyond that, Dickens’s humor shows through and he makes for an entertaining traveling companion.

Prague Pictures: A Portrait of the City by John Banville
[Finished 12 April 2008] A somewhat idiosyncratic look at Prague by an Irish author who describes the city partly from his own experiences in the city and partly through the lens of his researches for an historical novel about Kepler and Brahe.

I had bought the book, I think, hoping for some actual, pictures, having taken the title a bit too literally, but I found at least a few bits of description which help put me in Prague even without the illustrations.

In Search of a Character: Two African Journals by Graham Greene
[Finished 16 December 2007] Reading this, I find that the form is very similar to what my notebooks that I kept during college and the following years. I wonder now, how much I was influenced by reading this slender book.

The first part, Greene’s journal when he was preparing to write A Burnt-Out case is the more interesting part and confirms my suspicion that that work was meant to be Greene’s final novel.

The second part, notes on the journey to west Africa during World War II is rather less interesting, perhaps because it lacks the raw material of a novel.

The Lawless Roads by Graham Greene
[Finished 2 August 2007] Re-reading this book after nearly 20 years, I have a new perspective courtesy of the time that I’ve since spent in Mexico. Cities like Las Casas, San Luis Obispo and Mexico are less abstract concepts to me now, and more places I have been to, and, in some cases, have something approaching intimacy with.

Reading this relatively close on the heals of Journey Without Maps, it’s clear that Greene has a distinct travel-writing style, on which focuses on fairly short vignettes rather than in-depth observation. It’s clear after reading this that Greene ended up a stronger Catholic as a result of the trip, but at the same time, his distaste for Mexico itself also comes across rather clearly.

Journey Without Maps by Graham Greene
[Finished 6 June 2007] Having read Greene’s cousin’s account of this journey since the last time I read this book, my perspective is dramatically changed on Greene’s telling of the story. Most notably, Greene’s cousin is barely mentioned and Greene’s illness isn’t mentioned at all.

I remember being a bit bored with this when I first read it, and the impression remains that it’s not the most interesting of accounts. Most of the time in the bush is a rather monotonous account of interchangeable villages and squabbles with the carriers. Knowing that Greene was ill with fever for most of this time, explains a lot.

The most interesting parts of the story are the occasional ventures into autobiography which are mostly confined to the first part of the book. It’s this, rather than the details of the bush which make this worth reading at all.

Waugh in Africa by Evelyn Waugh
[Finished 3 July 2002] Evelyn Waugh’s writings from his trip to Ethiopia before World War II reflect the prejudices of his time perhaps more than the realities of African life. But even Waugh’s prejudices make for interesting reading.

A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by Samuel Johnson and James Boswell
[Finished 6 September 2001] Two accounts of a trip made by Samuel Johnson and his biographer. At times a bit ponderous and dull, but generally rather interesting