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Travels with Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn

Hilarious, patrician, blunt account of the worst of her many journeys, to: Guomindang China 1941, the U-boated Carribean 1942, East through West Africa 1949, liberal Russia 1966, hippie Israel 1971.

She generalises a lot (e.g. she categorises each new tribe she meets by their average attractiveness and prevailing smell; she calls ‘racial’ what we’d deem cultural traits; like many WWII vets, she insists on using the word ‘Jap’). But her discrimination is more usually discriminating, making just distinctions. She’s fair, keen to empathise -
I said it stood to reason that we must smell in some disgusting way to them.
Yes, said Aya, they say we have the ‘stale odour of corpses’; they find it sickening.

This cheers me; fair’s fair; I don’t feel so mean-minded
– a point you can find in p’Bitek, among others) and holds colonialists and bigots in far higher contempt (“it seems conceited to foist off our notions of religion, which we have never truly practised, onto people whose savagery is much more disorganised, personal and small-scale than ours”). My mate Paul – a noted cynic – believes, along with most of our generation, that travel is ennobling, inherently. It surely is not, but it certainly does put an edge on some folks’ writing. (Not their souls:
One needs Equanil here too, not just in our white urban civilisation; tranquilisers against impatience, against the hysteria induced by heat, and the disgust at dirt...

Generous, stylish, and a fine if not superior substitute for going these places.
  • In one sentence: Greatest journalist goes on holiday to five of the shittest times and places on earth.
  • Number of reads: 2 since 2014.
  • Galef type: Data 1 - a window onto an interesting piece of the world,
    & Values 3 - a holistic value structure, letting you experience that value structure from the inside.
  • To be read when: travelling; refusing to travel.