The Art of Travel
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Any Baedeker will tell us where we ought to travel, but only Alain de Botton will tell us how and why. With the same intelligence and insouciant charm he brought to How Proust Can Save Your Life, de Botton considers the pleasures of anticipation; the allure of the exotic, and the value of noticing everything from a seascape in Barbados to the takeoffs at Heathrow.
Even as de Botton takes the reader along on his own peregrinations, he also cites such distinguished fellow-travelers as Baudelaire, Wordsworth, Van Gogh, the biologist Alexander von Humboldt, and the 18th-century eccentric Xavier de Maistre, who catalogued the wonders of his bedroom. The Art of Travel is a wise and utterly original book. Don’t leave home without it.
that Flaubert contemplated the Orient. References to the Middle East pervaded his early writings and correspondence. In ‘Rage et Impuissance', a story written in 1836, when Flaubert was fifteen (he was at school and fantasised about killing the mayor of Rouen), the author projected his Eastern fantasies onto his central character, M. Ohmlin, who longed for ‘the Orient with her burning sun, her blue skies, her golden minarets… her caravans through the sands—the Orient!… The tanned, olive skin of
to most minds, such associations will always appear forced, strained and unnatural. All the world laughs at ‘Elegiac Stanzas to a Suckling-Pig', ‘A Hymn on Washing-Day', ‘Sonnets to One's Grandmother', or ‘Pindaric Odes on Gooseberry-Pie'; and yet, it seems, it is not easy to convince Mr Wordsworth of this.' Parodies of the poet's work soon began to circulate in the literary journals. When I see a cloud, I think out loud, How lovely it is, To see the sky like this ran one. Was it a robin
the Old Testament God knew, it can be helpful to back up deflationary points about mankind with reference to the very elements in nature which physically surpass it—the mountains, the girdle of the earth, the deserts. If the world seems unfair or beyond our understanding, sublime places suggest that it is not surprising that things should be thus. We are the playthings of the forces that laid out the oceans and chiselled the mountains. Sublime places gently move us to acknowledge
makes it look as though the cypress were being shifted by several gusts of wind blowing from different angles. With its conelike shape (cypresses rarely exceed a metre in diameter), the tree takes on the appearance of a flame flickering nervously in the wind. All of this van Gogh noticed and would make others see. A few years after van Gogh's stay in Provence, Oscar Wilde remarked that there had been no fog in London before Whistler painted it. Surely, too, there were fewer cypresses in Provence
the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, John Ruskin, Alpine Peaks, 1846 whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane, and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that you went down such and such a lane.' 7. Not only did Ruskin encourage us to draw during our travels; he also felt we should