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This article is taken from PN Review 266, Volume 48 Number 6, July - August 2022.

A Walk in the Dark Woods Richard Gwyn
The sixth floor of the Holiday Inn at Santiago de Chile’s international airport is an ideal place in which to savour anonymity. From my room I can look down on the runway, the planes neatly docked in their aprons like Dinky toys. The hotel itself, a non-place for world travellers, offers its guests a veneer of self-conscious transience, and a restaurant where we might consume generic world cuisine in a habitat devoid of any specific cultural reference. As though both to confirm and deny this sense of displacement, the hotel lobby displays a full range of multi-coloured ‘Welcome’ signs in around a hundred languages. I am reminded of the words of the erstwhile British Prime Minister, Theresa May, about citizens of the world being citizens of nowhere, and wonder if I share with my compatriots in Nowhereland that sad brand of homelessness of which she warned, characterised by frustration, lack of purpose and despair.

Alone in my hotel room, I can see everything going on down below: the passengers queuing at the carpark pay-booth; others dragging their wheelie suitcases across the tarmacadam towards the straggling expanse of Brutalist concrete buildings that house the Departures Hall… and if I were to open the window – which I cannot, presumably to prevent me from hurling myself earthward in horror at my own anomie – I would no doubt be able to smell the fumes of the petroleum-laden day. Like almost everything else, modern travel is a consumerist project. The gringo in the foyer with his Swedish cargo pants and Italian hiking boots, ready to head off into the ...


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