x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

On a ‘stationery’ voyage a

In Traveling in Place: A History of Armchair Travel, Bernd Stiegler examines the concept of embarking on a voyage without leaving the house.

“A room is unquestionably the biggest country on Earth, the most multifaceted in its manifestations, the most remarkable and informative site a traveller who is reasonably intelligent can contemplate,” argued Arthur Mangin in his 19th-century account Voyage scientifique autour de ma chambre.

Bernd Stiegler’s book is, as the title suggests, about embarking on journeys without actually leaving the house.

Divided into 21 “legs”, it explores the world within through the eyes of luminaries such as Mangin, Xavier de Maistre, Samuel Beckett, Julio Cortázar, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Søren Kierkegaard, Jorge Luis Borges and Jules Verne, attempting to show that the mundane can be transformed into something brilliant, that travel is ultimately just a state of mind and therefore can be enjoyed in the comfort of your living room with the help of stimuli such as literature, art, photographs and interesting objects.

Traveling in Place: A History of Armchair Travel may be uplifting reading for convicts, shut-ins, agoraphobes and those who are keenly interested in obscure literary genres, but readers accustomed to more conventional travel books may feel a bit claustrophobic after a few chapters.

pmuir@thenational.ae