December 7, 2012 6:11 pm

Diverse encounters

A collection that is bound by an exhilarating intensity of engagement with the world

The New Granta Book of Travel, edited by Liz Jobey, Granta, RRP£12.99, 429 pages

 

Granta magazine cut its teeth on intelligent travel writing in the 1980s and the stellar cast assembled here does justice to its pre-eminence in the genre.

Old hands Jonathan Raban and Paul Theroux offer broadly objective takes on interacting with strangers while the flamboyant, self-referential adventures of Bruce Chatwin and Ryszard Kapuscinski often feel closer to fiction. WG Sebald’s meandering recollections suggest a fragile, complex interdependence between landscape and memory and the brilliant James Hamilton-Paterson extols the merits of “becoming physically mislaid” while scraping the seabed in a Russian submersible. Relative newcomers Wendell Steavenson (on occupied Iraq) and the poet Kathleen Jamie (on lowland Scotland), share an empathetic curiosity for their subjects.

Besides fascinating raw material and fluent prose, what binds together these diverse encounters is an exhilarating intensity of engagement with the world.

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