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‘The biggest adventure is the writing, not the journey’

Kate Harris, whose Lands of Lost Borders was one of my books of 2018 (you can read an extract here on Deskbound Traveller) was interviewed this week by Sam Riches for the Los Angeles Review of Books. She says, among other things:

One of my fears about the book is I’ll get pegged as an adventurer and I don’t feel that way. I’ve been called that — explorer, adventurer. These are not self-appointed labels. A question I get a lot at the end of book events is, what’s next? And they don’t mean it in a literary sense. They mean what’s the next adventure. I understand why they ask, even as I recoil a bit because I first and foremost see myself as a writer. The biggest adventure and the deepest exploration for me is the writing, not the journey itself. It’s the coming home and trying to bring an experience or insight alive on the page, in language that sings.

Lost and free

Will Hunt, whose debut Underground I have mentioned a few times, has a piece in The Atlantic magazine on how getting lost in subterranean darkness can free the mind.

Frostrup, Fiennes and Rajesh on Bath Festival bill

The programme was announced this week for the Bath Festival (May 17-26). Contributors include…

Mariella Frostrup, whose latest book, Wild Women, is an anthology of women’s travel writing through the ages;
Monisha Rajesh, author of Around the World in 80 Trains;
Ranulph Fiennes, the explorer, who with Hilary Bradt, founder of Bradt Guides, and Jonathan Lorie, author of The Travel Writer’s Way, will be discussing travel on the road and on the page;
Neil Oliver, archaeologist, writer and broadcaster, whose latest book is The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places;
Raynor Winn, who, having lost her home, walked the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path with her terminally ill husband, a journey recounted in The Salt Path;
and two of the team behind Planet Earth and Blue Planet, Alastair Fothergill, the director, and Keith Scholey, the producer, who will be talking about their new Netflix series Our Planet. Voiced by Sir David Attenborough and due to begin in April, it “showcases the planet’s most precious species and fragile habitats”.

Win a copy of ‘The Flying Boat That Fell to Earth’

Graham Coster’s The Flying Boat That Fell to Earth is a love-letter to a mode of transport that is simultaneously improbable and fabulous: “an aeroplane walking on water; a boat defying gravity — as magical as a flying pig”. The author, who is lucky enough to have travelled on a few flying boats (there are no longer any in service), will be speaking at the new Stanfords shop in Covent Garden, London, next Tuesday, February 19. Tickets, available in the shop or online, cost £4, redeemable against the price of his book.

I have two copies of the book to give away. To be in with a chance of winning one, just retweet my pinned tweet from either @kerraway or @deskboundtravel, or like and share my post about the book on

Terms and conditions
Entrants must retweet the mention of the prize on Twitter from @deskboundtravel or @kerraway, or like and share the post about the prize on the Deskbound Traveller Facebook page, by midnight on Thursday, February 21, 2019. Each winner, who must be resident in the United Kingdom, will receive one copy of the book. Winners will be selected at random and notified by Monday, February 25. Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted. For more about the book, see the website of Safe Haven Books.

Where not to travel

On an Indian Ocean island last November, John Allen Chau, a 26-year-old American, was killed by the isolated tribe he was attempting to convert to Christianity. In an article for the Canadian magazine The Walrus, Kate Harris (author of Lands of Lost Borders) considers the lessons to be drawn from his story:

… travel has a tendency to bring out the Chau in all of us. We want what we want when we go abroad, which often is the untouched, the authentic—even as our arrival, by definition, undermines those very qualities in a place or of a culture and contributes to the slow, involuntary conversion of one way of life into another.

‘Winningly obsessive’ on the underworld

I mentioned a while ago Will Hunt’s debut Underground (Simon & Schuster), which I’ve reviewed for The Daily Telegraph. My piece has yet to appear, but there’s no harm in saying here that I was impressed. So was Jon Day, who has reviewed the book for The Guardian. It is, he says, a “winningly obsessive history of our relationship with underground places” and “beautifully written”.

On this day…

… in 1948, the novelist Lawrence Durrell wrote a letter to his friend Mary Hadkinson with some observations about Argentina:

You envy us? Argentina is a large flat melancholy and rather superb-looking country full of stale air, blue featureless sierra, and businessmen drinking Coca-Cola. One eats endless beef and is so bored one could scream. It is the most lazy-making climate I have ever struck: not as bad as Egypt, of course: but I’d give a lifetime of Argentina for three weeks of Greece.

On the bill for Essex festival

Contributors to the Essex Book Festival (March 1-31) will include Damian Le Bas, author of The Stopping Places, which has been short-listed for Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year; Sara Maitland (perhaps best known for A Book of Silence), who in a session on “journeys and words” will be talking about her recent travels in the Sinai, the basis of her next book; and Xinran Xue, author of The Promise: Love and Loss in Modern China (which is reviewed this week in The Spectator by Rose George).

Place and travel at Faversham festival

This month’s Faversham Literary Festival, in Kent (February 21-24), will have contributions from writers touching on place and travel. Among them are Tim Dee, author most recently of Landfill; Iain Sinclair, who in Living With Buildings explores the relationship between our health and the built environment; Hugh Warwick, whose Linescapes offers a “hedgehog’s-eye view of the country’s ditches, dykes and railways”; Horatio Clare, who has recently recreated on radio and in print (Something of His Art) a walk taken by JS Bach across northern Germany in 1705; Melissa Harrison, whose acclaimed novel, Among the Barley, is set in a Suffolk farming community between the wars; and Nasrin Parvaz and Lucy Popescu, discussing the experiences of refugees and migrants.

Gypsy Britain with Le Bas

Damian Le Bas, whose debut about Gypsy Britain, The Stopping Places (Chatto & Windus), has been short-listed for Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, will present the first episode of a new series on on BBC 4, A Very British History, at 9pm next Monday (February 11). The programme “explores how Gypsy people in the 1960s were forced to abandon their nomadic way of life for a more settled existence”.

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