with text by Helen Martin
We love books! You may have noticed. Our desks are cluttered with old Baedekers and Soviet era guides to towns whose names have long since been changed. Who now remembers Molotovsk? Or even Sverdlovsk? It is not just old guidebooks but also the accounts of early travellers that often influence our own writing. Some of the best prose ever written about Andalucía came from the pens of two mid nineteenth-century writers, Richard Ford and George Borrow. Mark Twain's account of the Azores, Chekhov's letters from the end of the Russian Empire, Mary Wollstonecraft's reports from Sweden, the passionate desert essays of Isabelle Eberhardt and Thackeray's Irish sketchbook are all travel gems - as relevant to the modern traveller as the latest guidebook.
Yet good prose that nicely evokes a sense of place is not something reserved to writers who have long since departed this planet.