AT HOME AND ABROAD by V.S. Pritchett


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Here, Pritchett is sightseer, cultural psychoanalyst, and social critic in 14 travel essays that explore people and places on three continents. These pieces were written mostly for Holiday magazine in the 1950's and '60's, and vary from straightforward geographic description to studies of racial, cultural, and intellectual character. In several essays, place serves merely as backdrop for character analysis as Pritchett plumbs the national psyches of the Irish, the Americans, and the Germans. The essay on South America is a tour de force in which the author draws on his intimate knowledge of Spain and Portugal to see how their cultures and sensibilities have mixed with those of Indians, blacks, and newer European immigrants to create "feudal" Equador, "courtly" Peru, "sane and effervescent" Brazil, and "hair-raisingly violent" Bolivia. Pritchett's pieces on the Seine and the Thames, Portugal, and Greece are well-executed tours, thick with detail and mood, but less satisfying than the pieces on England and London and the effect of modernity on the towns and cities of the European Mediterranean coast, where "the beaches have become an international rotisserie of sunseekers who demand machine-age life." His analysis of the Irish is superb, but he forces Americans into arbitrary groupings--the American Pilgrim, Hiawatha the can-do hero--that are simply too broad. An uneven collection, but generally rich in illumination--of a world perhaps now slightly dated (there are no drug barons in this vividly known South America, for example).

Pub Date: May 25th, 1989
ISBN: 86547-385-4
Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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