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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