"Today our world seems peculiarly susceptible to brutality."
Let me begin by professing my absolute love for all the Greene novels I have read to date. Thus setting the scene, Journey Without Maps, while possessing an amazingly good title, left me a little tepid. That is not to say that this isn't an interesting read and some of the prose is brilliant. Perhaps the misstep in my appreciation is due to a lack of connection with a naive young, male, traveller, protagonist in a very different time.
Travel writing in essence is all about the discovery of a new circumstance, the experience of the foreign. We impose our own view upon our surrounds and take away a sense of renewed understanding of our own homeland and of our own expectations of the world. Intriguingly, reading the book backwards would add a layered nuance, as the author notes, with the benefit of time, in the Preface to the second edition
"I have been able to recognise in myself after a year;s sojourn the inertia which as a tourist I condemned so harshly in other people".Indeed, perhaps my disconnection from the text is an aversion to my own gauche behaviour as a tourist. Now, upon reflection, my initial view of the novel is elevated and perhaps I initially judged it too harshly. Discussions of the novel are doubtlessly full of commentary about the language and racism which are part and parcel of the time in which it was written, and sadly still prevail often today. The novel is also in some ways a rite of passage, a young naive man goes to remote Africa to discover a broader world view. That is perhaps the reason we all travel - to broaden our horizon and , as the title suggests, a trip without the benefit of coded directions is being truly adrift in the world. There are a surfeit of descriptions of topless native women in this novel and a real sexualisation that adds a further barrier to my enjoyment, and yet reflects the social norms of the day. I finished this novel on a rivercat from Olympic Park to Barangaroo on a beautiful Sydney sunny day - that was the journey it accompanied me on.
3 out of 5 Facebook posts can't compete with the old slide night.