Saturday, September 17, 2016

Mount TBR #50

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2016. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

First Russia Then Tibet – Robert Byron

Robert Byron is famous for one of the best travel narratives from between the wars, The Road to Oxiana. In Russia, he plays his usual pugnacious self and gets in the face of Soviet cultural officials and toadies, standing up for the individual’s right not to connect all art as fuel and exhaust of the class struggle. The first half is marred by too much economics and because, I am not an art historian, too much about the history of Russian painting.

The Tibet half wonderfully describes the misery of travel in a harsh environment:

The morning, which came at last, was the crisis of the expedition. My own face, for which I had constructed a mask out of two handkerchiefs, had ceased to drip, and was now covered with yellow scabs, which adhered unpleasantly to the surface of the beard. But those of M. and G. had liquefied in the night, and they arrived in my room to breakfast, speechless with despondency. The cold was intense; the room was filled with the odour of yak-dung and lamp-smoke; my head was pounding; and I had whispered to myself, during the despair of dressing, that if – if either of the other to suggest an about-turn, I should not oppose him. To endure this pain for three more weeks would be merely the weak-mindedness of the strong.

A wonderful book, I highly recommend it to readers into classic travel writing.

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