A Square of Sky

During the Second World War Janina David was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto, hidden in a convent and raised by Catholic nuns. Recently, Janina was delighted to have succeeded in getting the nuns recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.  To commemorate this achievement, and to remind ourselves of the trauma of war and exile, we revisited this moving description of Janina’s return, alone, to her native town in Poland back in the early 1960s. Both of Janina’s parents were killed by the Nazis in the extermination camps.

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Travel Tips: Matthew Teller

Our late Spring travel tips are provided by Matthew Teller

Before my first trip to Antarctica, I got onto Twitter and was yapping about what gear to buy and how cold it might be, when the calmest piece of travel wisdom social media has ever seen came out of the blue at me. ‘Forget the cold, it’ll melt your heart'  . . . 


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Rebel in Pearls

It seemed apt that I should discover Juliet living in Russia when I was there. And apt that rather than living in Moscow like the vast majority of foreigners, she was living in Peredelkino, a retreat from the city where wooden dachas sheltered improbably but cosily, like mushrooms, in the all-encompassing forest. Like Churchill’s description of the country itself, she had always been to me something of ‘a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’ . . .

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Travel Tips: Steppes

Our Spring travel tips are provided by Nicholas Laing of Steppes Travel

Carry a small Polaroid camera (they are back in fashion). Handing over a photograph to the individual or family you want to photograph breaks the ice and usually results in smiles all round . . 

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An Irishman in Somalia

Can a book save one’s life? I used to think so when stationed in Mogadishu, avoiding thoughts of murder or suicide in that sunburnt madness only by immersing myself in Gerald Hanley’s Warriors (1971). Day after day I would throw myself on to my bed after another utterly fruitless, pointless day in the president’s office, and lie down, sweating beneath squadrons of flies and mosquitoes, and try to forget about it all.

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Travel Tips: John Gimlette

From John Gimlette, travel writer

Carry pictures of your family.  They are a great way of communicating your harmlessness, especially where language is an issue.  If you don’t have family, take pictures of the Royal family.  They are often a source of interest.

Pack a tin of sardines in countries where foodmight become tricky.  They are good for emergencies but just sufficiently unappetising that you won’t be tempted to eat them prematurely.

Take your old work shirts (those with frayed collars etc).  Cotton is great in all climates, and you can give them awayas you go.  I often come back with an empty suitcase!

If you think you’re in an unsafepart of town, avoid eye-contact, look as if you know where you’re going and do not display a guide book.

Try and avoid Western-style food in countries that have their own distinct cuisine.  It may not have been cooked properly, and may have been sitting around for ages.  Even in big hotels, the Indian variant of the full English Breakfast can be lethal.

Autumn News

This autumn we are adding two new Martha Gellhorn titles to the Eland list, The View from the Ground: Peacetime Dispatches, 1936–87 and The Face of War, 1937–85: War Reporting as a Commitment to Humanity, Life and Peace . . . 

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Summer News


Seven Years in Ceylon by Leonard Woolf reviewed in The Oldie magazine by Jan Morris

This fascinating book is a kind of parable. It opens when one October morning in 1904 Leonard Woolf, aged 24, sets sail from Tilbury for Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, thena middle-sized component of the British Empire. He is to become a member of the Ceylon Civil Service,  but he is  an improbable imperialist. Rather weedy-looking, he has lately come down from Trinity College,  Cambridge, where he has been an active member of the ultra-intellectual Apostles club. His luggage includes 90 volumes of Voltaire’s collected works, 1784 edition,  andhe is  never out of touch with the most prominent of the Apostles, Lytton Strachey.
Almost at once he is plunged into the ambience of imperialism, in the late heyday of the imperial idea: the true diligence of it, the latent prejudices, the red tape, the accountings, the rural courts, the horse-back journeys, the red tape, the petty disputes, the occasional floggings,  the demands of religions and feudalisms – together with the hockey,  squash, bridge, tennis,  gossipings and ambitions that were the consolations of the imperialists themselves. In Ceylon their own community was layered too, civil servants, army officers and planters one and all looking down upon the business people who were, after all, almost never members of The Club. As Kipling made clear, it was a very provincial sort of society,  and  a far, far  cry from Voltaire  and the Lytton Stracheys . . .

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Travel Tips: Rose Baring & Barnaby Rogerson

From Rose Baring and Barnaby Rogerson - our own husband and wife publishing team - a little less cerebral than the Woolfs, but possibly better travelled!

Last week we were asked to talk to some travel-hungry teenagers trying to escape thinking about revision who had started to dream of life after their exams were over in July.  We tried to remember what it was like . . .

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Spring News

Rupert Smith on Dilys Powell, author of THE VILLA ARIADNE

In January 1926 Elizabeth Dilys Powell married Humfry Payne, the brilliant young archaeologist whose pursuits and enthusiasm were to shape her early life. For the next ten years, until his death in 1936, she perched on the edge of his world, an interested observer, watching him and his colleagues with a mixture of admiration and bemusement, and coming to share his love of the landscape and the people of Greece . . .

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The Travellers’ Film Club

We are delighted to announce that a new series of the Travellers’ Film Club hosted by Waterstones, Piccadilly (203-206, Piccadilly, London)  starts this week on Wednesday 27th January, 7pm.

Antony Wynn, author of Persia in the Great Game: Sir Percy Sykes: Explorer, Consul, Soldier, Spy  will introduce and discuss GRASS: A Nation’s Battle for Life.

This 1925 silent documentary follows Haidar Khan and his Bakhtiari tribe on their Spring migration across the flooded Karun River and the snowbound Zagros Mountains of southern Persia to their summer pastures.  Filmed on location between Turkey and Iran, Grass is the first ethnographical account of the nomadic Bakhtiari people and was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally and historically significant’.  

Directed and photographed by Merian C. Cooper,  Ernest B. Schoedsack (who would later go on to produce ‘King Kong’) and Marguerite Harrison, Grass is deliberately styled as a story of man’s triumph over nature, as much a mythic narrative of migration and settlement as a simple travelogue.  Venturing through deserts, mountains, rivers and snowy wastelands in search of the life-sustaining grasslands, the Bakhtiari’s 50,000 strong caravan - complete with 500,000 cattle and goats - become the sole focus of the camera’s gaze.

Antony Wynn, who is Chairman of the Iran Society, lived in Iran for many years and has visited each end of this migration -  he has yet to ride the middle part.  

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Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards

Down to the Sea in Ships, Horatio Clare’s account of the ordinary men that place their lives in extraordinary danger on container ships on the high seas, was announced as the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year this evening at an event at London’s National Liberal Club.

“In selecting a winner from our wonderful shortlist, we kept in mind that one of the great litmus tests of travel writing is companionship, how much the reader relishes the company of the writer,” said prize Chair, Barnaby Rogerson. “We wanted to be led on an adventure, we wanted new doors opened, fresh horizons of inquiry unveiled, we want to be filled with wonder and enthusiasm at the dazzling riches of our world. Down to the Sea in Ships ticked every box.” . . .

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Errant Magazine - The Wandering Witness

'The legend of Dervla Murphy generally begins in December 1941, her tenth birthday, when she received a bicycle and an atlas. She fell in love with both and, looking out from a hill near her home in Lismore, Ireland, she decided to cycle to India. Twenty-one years later, she set out for Delhi—cycling through France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan and Pakistan—alone but for her bike and a pistol. The notes she took during this journey were turned into Full Tilt, a wonderful book that won her well-deserved recognition as one of the best travel writers of her generation. Many more books followed. About Tibet, Nepal, and trekking through Ethiopia with a mule. Then, after her daughter Rachel was old enough (5 years old, to be exact), she continued her work with a couple books about their travels in India.

But I would argue that the true legend of Dervla Murphy began in 1978 . . .

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Barnaby Rogerson for Errant Magazine on Where Travel Writing is Now

'I don’t just read all the new travel books I can get hold of, I collect whole library editions as well. Aside from their texts, they summon up a once devoted and attentive readership: Those lovely cloth-and-gilt-titled Everyman hardbacks are scented with craftsmanship and muscular Christian decency. The bashed-up magenta paperbacks produced by Penguin just before the war were part of a mission that made democratic socialism possible, while I imagine the blue-cloth hardbacks of Jonathan Cape’s traveller’s library, being read by the more thoughtful members of a colonial clubhouse in the 20s. From my own youth the massed volumes of the rival Picador, Penguin Travel Library and Century lists sit prolific on my shelves.

I acquire them to aid my work (which is to dig out lost classics of travel literature and add them to the Eland list) but there is also something more obsessive going on. The libraries allow me to watch how the ‘immortality’ of authorship ebbs away, how tastes evolve and how that which was so ‘needed and now’ to one generation, becomes so much recyclable garbage to the next. But like inspiring pin-pricks in the night sky, there are still travel books that keep shining, and have kept generation after generation of readers enthralled . . .

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