Into the Badlands with Simon Barnes

Intelligent Life, the bi-monthly cultural and lifestyle magazine of The Economist, has a new editor, Emma Duncan, and is shortly to have a new title, 1843 —  the year The Economist was founded. Under the last editor, Tim de Lisle, the magazine published some fine narrative travel writing, and that element of its coverage, I understand, is going to be expanded. The current (January/February) issue, still with the original title, has an excellent piece from Simon Barnes on Badlands National Park in South Dakota. On seeing the 50-mile Badlands Wall, he writes:

“There are a few – just a few – landscapes on Earth than make the first-time observer feel as if he had walked into a glass door. This is a deranged fantasy of a place: it’s as if Gaudí had cast aside all the restraint he showed when he designed the Sagrada Familia and really let himself go. Here is madness: glorious and forbidding at the same time. Both aspects are joyful things to those of us who are used to softer places and a softer life. But you can also feel the ancient desperation of all the humans and all the races who came here to travel through this land or, worse, to try and set up home in it.”

Barnes, who wrote about sports and wildlife for The Times for more than 20 years, has a new book out this week. The Sacred Combe (Bloomsbury) is about the secret, special places where we seem to find heaven and earth close together. He found his in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.

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