JOURNEY TO KARS by Philip Glazebrook
Kirkus Star


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Topnotch travel writing: a spirited, amusing, literate account of a solo trek from England to the eastern border of Turkey. Glazebrook is a novelist (his most recent, Byzantine Honeymoon, appeared in 1979), and he ostensibly took this train, bus, dolmus, caique, steamboat, and rent-a-car trip to gather materials for his next novel; but whatever the fate of that project, these journals will stand handsomely on their own. Glazebrook sees himself as a jet-age epigone of the great Victorian travelers in the Balkans and the Mid-East (Edmund Spencer, Austen Henry Layard, et al.), and gets a fine contrapuntal effect by comparing their heroic exploits with his own touristic trials and triumphs--losing his luggage on a train in Yugoslavia, losing his hotel in Athens' tangled Plaka district, facing tense security guards in eastern Anatolia, risking arrest in Trabzon (Trebisond) by overturning the tea table of a stupid, suspicious banker who wouldn't cash his traveler's check. Glazebrook constantly fantasizes about his novel-to-be, whose narrator and protagonist, ""the Traveller,"" will have an alter ego and imaginary companion, ""the Hero"" of his travels. Both these noble archetypes, which fit perfectly well into the 19th-century Ottoman Empire with its brigands, bastinados, and wild picturesqueness, shrink rather comically when applied to a man whose major problem is a lack of room reservations. But Glazebrook has few pretensions (at one point, though, vexed by the noisiness of Turkish towns, he proclaims absurdly that Islam ""has never invented anything""): he's a cheerful, ironic, self-mocking raconteur, exactly the sort of person with whom one would like to tramp about the old Russian quarter of Kars or take a hell-for-leather bus ride roaring over the Pontic Mountains, or lounge around the stately old Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul--but Glazebrook always travels alone and seldom talks to strangers. Not having heard from LÉvi-Strauss and Paul Fussell that the Age of Travel is over, he's rather old-fashioned--and utterly, affably readable.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Atheneum