Author Archive

The year we stopped flying

I’m late getting round to mentioning it but The Guardian had an excellent piece on Saturday from Cal Flyn on the year we stopped flying, and what it meant for work, family life, scientific research — and the planet. (Flyn’s Islands of Abandonment, a life-affirming book about dead zones, was one of my books of this year.)

My books of the year

For the travel section of The Sunday Telegraph yesterday, I picked my travel books of the year, and suggested some picture books that would make great Christmas presents. I’ll put them all on Deskbound Traveller a little later.

Petro on ‘Travel Writing World’

Pamela Petro, currently on tour in Britain with The Long Field, is also the latest interviewee on Jeremy Bassetti’s Travel Writing World podcast.

Voices from ‘Osebol’ on Radio 4

I’ve now read Osebol: Voices from a Swedish Village. I finished its 800 pages in a couple of days — partly because they’re laid out like a prose poem, partly because they’re full of life and I didn’t want to stop. The author, Marit Kapla, was on Start the Week on Radio 4 this morning; you can catch up on BBC Sounds.

Dervla Murphy at 90

“If you’re fearless, you don’t need courage,” says Dervla Murphy (right), who turns 90 today, in an interview with Ethel Crowley in the Irish Examiner. If you’d like to hear more from the redoubtable Dervla, I recommend Philip Watson’s 2018 interview for The Guardian, Sue Lawley’s in 1993 for Desert Island Discs, and my own interview from 2015. More recently, Dervla figures in a chapter in Tim Hannigan’s excellent The Travel Writing Tribe, a book from which travel writers, as well as travel readers, can draw pleasure and profit. Then, of course, there are her own books, published by Eland.

‘Jan Morris: Writing a Life’

A year on from the death of Jan Morris, Horatio Clare assesses her remarkable legacy and explores some of the myths she built up about herself and her life. Jan Morris: Writing a Life will be broadcast in the Archive on 4 slot on Radio 4 on Saturday (November 13).

A book of essays Morris prepared for posthumous publication, Allegorizings, came out in Britain at the start of this month (Faber, £14) and in the US in April.

Osebol: ‘a microcosm of life on Earth’

I like the sound of Osebol: Voices from a Swedish Village (Allen Lane, £20), which has become a bestseller in Sweden. It’s a book in which Marit Kapla, editor of a cultural magazine in Gothenburg, returns to her home place and asks its 40 inhabitants to talk about their past and present. Reviewing it yesterday in The Observer, Nicci Gerrard said that “the voices that have come from this ordinary little village have become like an existential meditation on what it is to be alive, to be human, creatures living in time while the river runs on and wolves howl in the woods… Kapla has made her undramatic little patch of Earth into a microcosm of life. Its specificity allows it to be universal.”

A ‘sun-drenched hymn to Greece’

The nature writer Peter Fiennes’s “sun-drenched hymn to Greece”, A Thing of Beauty: Travels in Mythical and Modern Greece (Oneworld, £18.99), was reviewed yesterday in The Observer by Alex Preston. The book, he says, is “a must-read for anyone visiting Greece but, at this time when travel is tricky… perhaps even more essential for those of us who don’t know when next we’ll get there”. Fiennes was interviewed recently by Jeremy Bassetti for his Travel Writing World podcast.

Kazakhstan from the rails

Just a few months before the travel restrictions prompted by Coronavirus, Mario Heller, a Berlin-based Swiss photographer, made a three-week railway journey through Kazakhstan. His wonderful picture essay was published on Friday by The Guardian, and you can find more of the images on his own website.

Kabul ‘through cracks in the silence’

Taran N Khan, author of the prize-winning Shadow City: A Woman Walks Kabul, writes for Literary Hub on what she has heard “through cracks in the silence” since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.