Review: Edwards, Justin, and Rune Graulund: Postcolonial travel writing: critical explorations

Review: Edwards, Justin, and Rune Graulund: Postcolonial travel writing: critical explorations

Edwards, Justin, and Rune Graulund, eds. Postcolonial travel writing: critical explorations. Springer, 2010. ISBN 978-0-230-29476-9

The book Postcolonial travel writing: critical explorations is a collection of essays about travel writing. The papers build upon Mary Pratt’s Imperial Eyes and similar works put their focus on travel writing as a written testimony of colonial contract. The book puts focus on contemporary problems and discussions. The papers range from papers about receptions over discussions about postcolonial travel writing to interviews with contemporary authors.

The introduction of the book sets up what travel writing and what postcolonial travel writing are. One of the problems of the genre is the question of authenticity. While travel writing is grounded in reality, it is also written to entertain an audience. This leads to a discussion about the function and the importance of travel writing and its role as an instrument for colonialism.  

The first essay in the book by Claire Lindsay is called Beyond Imperial Eyes and takes a look at the reception of Pratt’s work. Lindsay shows some of the critical responses to Pratt’s work. As the title Disturbing Naipaul’s ‘Universal Civilization’ already says, is the focus of Bidhan Roy on the travel writing by V. S. Naipaul. The relationship between the West and Muslim societies stands in the centre of this essay. Roy concludes that Naipaul’s writing shows a cultural landscape that needs interventions from the West to achieve progress and therefore legitimises any intervention. Rune Graulund’s essay Travelling Home: Global Travel and the Postcolonial in the Travel Writing of Pico Iyer examines some of the key themes discussed when talking about modern travel writing about a globalized world.

The fourth essay is from María Lourdes López Ropero and is called Travel Writing and Postcoloniality: Caryl Phillips’s The Atlantic Sound. The essay demonstrates that contemporary travel writers are no longer driven to write by outside sources like the colonizer but are self-motivated and use the genre as a medium to discuss their own identity and background. Richard Phillip’s essay Decolonizing Travel: James/Jan Morris’s Geographies follows up on a point made in the introduction. Travel writing has not only been used as an instrument for colonialism but also for decolonization. The essay presents this point by analysing James/Jan Morris’ works.

‘Between somewhere and elsewhere’: Sugar, Slate and Postcolonial Travel Writing by Justin D. Edwards takes a look at the autobiographical book Sugar and Slate by Charlotte Williams and the question of identity and traveling and postcolonial travel writing. These topics are also the main focus in the next essay Where the Other Half Lives: Touring the Sites of Caribbean Spirit Possession in Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place by Anne Schroder. Schroder identifies Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place as a book about countertravel – Dealing with the problem of bringing the Other closer. Zoran Pećić’s essay Floral Diaspora in Jamaica Kincaid’s Travel Writing continues with the same author but focusses on a different book that shows the interest and frustration of Kincaid with traveling and the wish to understand the garden.

Post-Orientalism and the Past-Colonial in William Dalrymple’s Travel Histories by Paul Smethurst takes a look on Edward Said’s Orientalism and the influence and reception thereof. Dalrymple’s criticism of Said and the postcolonial studies leads Smethurst to analyse Dalrymple’s work from a postcolonial travel writing perspective. Dalrymple’s criticism is taken up again in the last chapter of the book called An Interview with William Dalrymple and Pankaj Mishra by Tabish Khair. The chapter presents an interview with the two people mentioned in which the discussion revolves around postcolonial travel writing and their own works.

The book offers a broad overview over postcolonial travel writing by taking up different contemporary problems or discussions.

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