Imagination: The Spring 2013 Reading List Reviews
Memoirs of a Revolutionary - Victor Serge - p.576
Victor Serge was born in Brussels to Russian political exiles, founding his worldview in bureaucratic opposition. Expelled from Belgium, arrested and imprisoned in France, Serge arrived to his ancestral homeland to participate in its’ 1918 Revolution. Constantly pursued for speaking against perceived injustice, Serge communicates in his Memoirs with an urgency that can only driven by a life lived in imminent evasion from capture by police, KGB, or Nazi pursuers. Impending danger does nothing to dull the precision of his words or rush him in articulating the language of dissent. Sweeping back the labels that can be to him prescribed: Bolshevik, Communist, prisoner, politician, revolutionary, intellectual; there remains a man without country, fighting back.
An African In Greenland - Tété-Michel Kpomassie - p.320
As a curious teenager in Togo Tété-Michel Kpomassie discovers a book about Greenland. Immediately transfixed by this distant land, he focuses the attention of the next decade of his life in deliberate directional travel northward, across Africa and Europe, toward his goal. Observantly honest in his descriptions, his foreign perspective lends amusing and refreshing clarity to the routines and customs of not only the far north of Greenland but a Western culture just as alien. Instantly endearing, Kpomassie’s travels are a testimony to fixing your destination with determination while calmly accepting the vicissitudes of the voyage with a shrug and a smile.
Hindoo Holiday - J.R. Ackerley - p. 320
In the gloaming of Britian’s colonial rule of India, a curious Maharajah requests the company of a British secretary to elucidate him to the ways of the West. With such a stage set for the young Ackerley he need do little but dryly record the events over the course of his five month stay to produce comic effect. His record holds no ego of Western conceit over his colonial hosts and reserves his more harsh critique for his countrymen he encounters along the way. Ackerly’s sly and deft writing charms offer an accurate yet hilarious view into a world now departed.
Mani - Travels in the Southern Peloponnese - Patrick Leigh Fermor - p. 376
We have travelled with Fermor through the Caribbean, walked by his side across Europe, and, with him, reverently observed silence. We now travel with our gallant friend, south of Sparta, to a time-trapped land culturally isolated by the Taygetus Mountains to the north and the Aegean and Ionian Seas on its flanks. Typical to his style, Fermor’s observative instincts constantly digress in tangential erudition that remain fascinating throughout. So taken with the beauty of the Mani Peninsula, Fermor later returned to make it his home.
Stones of Aran: Labyrinth - Tim Robinson - p. 680
“Unquestionable answer to unanswerable question”
In an overwhelming achievement in dedication to location, Robinson follows his circumnavigation of Ireland’s Arainn Island with a treatise on his wandering through the interior of the island. Written with reverence to precise detail and word craft that refuses to dismiss any passing object, landmass, or encounter as insignificant, Labyrinth reads like an act of observational piety. The book’s undertone culminates into something easily appreciated but difficult to identify; the sort of admirably absent regard for purpose found in the adventures of Pooh, who always seems to find he is exactly where is is supposed to be, while never quite sure how he arrived.