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The Art of Travel (2002) - Alain de Botton
Related: Alain de Botton - tourism - 2002
In search of the armchair traveller.
The Art of Travel (2002) - Alain de Botton [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
From the publisher:
Aside from love, few actvities seem to promise us as much happiness as going traveling: taking off for somewhere else, somewhere far from home, a place with more interesting weather, customs, and landscapes. But although we are inundated with advice on where to travel, few people seem to talk about why we should go and how we can become more fulfilled by doing so. In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton, author of How Proust Can Change Your Life, explores what the point of travel might be and modestly suggets how we can learn to be a little happier in our travels.
The book starts with the concept of the armchair traveller, a concept that was first brought to my attention in David Toop's excellent Ocean of Sound (1995). In Toop's book, the armchair traveller is linked to Henri Michaux, but to most its spiritual father is J. K. Huysmans with his Against the Grain (1884).
Q: Your book comprises not only your thoughts, but also those of ancient and modern philosophers, writers and thinkers: did you find anyone with particularly useful things to say about how to be happier on our travels?
A: One insight is that it may be useful to accept that the anticipation of travel is perhaps the best part about it. Our vacations are never as satisfying as they are when they exist in an as-yet unrealised form; in the shape of an airline ticket and a brochure. In the great 19th century novel, Against Nature, by the French writer J.K.Huysmans, the narrator goes on a few holidays which go wrong and then decides never to leave home again. He remains in his study and surrounds himself with a series of objects which facilitate the finest aspect of travel, its anticipation. He reads travel magazines, he has coloured prints hung on the walls, like those in travel agents’ windows, showing foreign cities and museums. He has the itineraries of the major shipping companies framed and lines his bedroom with them. He fills an aquarium with seaweed, buys a sail, some rigging and a pot of tar and, with their help, is able to experience the most pleasant sides of a long sea-voyage without any of its inconveniences. --http://randomhouse.com/pantheon/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375420825&view=qa
Aside from the aesthetics of de Botton - which can be dreary - his corpus is entertaining: he picks guides ranging from Edward Hopper, Baudelaire, Flaubert, von Humboldt, van Gogh, to Wordsworth and Ruskin. [Jul 2006]
See also: J. K. Huysmans - chair - tourism
Chapter 1On expectations, guided by J. K. Huysmans, concept of the armchair traveler. Imagining travelling is more exciting than travel itself.
Chapter 2On transitory places, guided by Charles Baudelaire and Edward Hopper (who was a fan of Baudelaire and had first read him when he moved to Paris in 1906). T. S. Eliot had decribed Baudelaire's poetry as « la poésie des départs, des salles d’attente. »
Hopper romanticizes the lonely traveller.
Chapter 3Exotica, guided by Flaubert, being a chapter on Egypt and Orientalism.
Chapter 4Curiousity, guided by Alexander Von Humboldt.
Chapter 5Landscape, guided by William Wordsworth.
Chapter 6The Sublime, guided by Edmund Burke and Job.
Chapter 7Art, guided by Vincent van Gogh.
A poem by Nietzsche on "realistic" painting.
Chapter 8On possessing beauty, guided by John Ruskin.
Chapter 9On habits, guided by Xavier de Maistre.
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