THE WAY OF THE WORLD by Nicolas Bouvier


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 Lyrical reminiscences of a footloose journey from Yugoslavia to India, undertaken 40 years ago by the then-25-year-old author of the enchanting The Japanese Chronicles (1992) and an equally young companion. Traveling in a distinctly fractious Fiat, the two friends, appealingly optimistic and resourceful, make their way ``on the cheap,'' settling in at peasant inns, earning their expenses by writing articles, delivering lectures, and organizing exhibitions. Perhaps because of their winning ways, they attract a colorful band of cohorts as they wend their way eastward--beggars and brigands, muezzins and Marxists. In recounting his adventures, Bouvier frequently provides thought-provoking insights: At one point, discussing the shortcomings of US humanitarian aid programs, he observes that ``practicing charity demands endless tact and humility''--qualities he finds lacking even in well-intentioned Americans; later, he points out that, ``like a mirror, an intelligent face is the same age as what it reflects.'' Wherever he travels, Bouvier displays an artist's eye for the image-conjuring detail: a moustache ``like a furled umbrella''; a Tabriz cinema in which the projectionist, eager to get home, speeds up his machine until ``the story would take on a disturbing pace: caresses looked like slaps, ermine-clad empresses hurtled downstairs.'' Throughout, Robyn Marsack's translation from the French is a model of lucidity and smoothness, capturing the author's unique blend of humanity and humor, and, as a bonus, there's a gracefully appreciative introduction by travel-writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. Travel writing to be cherished and reread.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1993
ISBN: 0-910395-86-1
Page count: 309pp
Publisher: Northwestern Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993