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This review is taken from PN Review 21, Volume 8 Number 1, September - October 1981.

THE TRAVELLER, THE TOURIST & THE SNOB Paul Fussell, Abroad: British Literary Travelling between the Wars (Oxford) £8.95

In The Human Factor there is much talk of boxes: the necessary if anti-human compartmentalizing of activity within the limits which that activity needs. It is that notion of boxes which helps us a good deal of the way towards perceiving the essence of Greene's insight in that book into the dislocation of life in the bureaucratic era of too many secrets and too little trust, and it was the same notion of boxes which inevitably came to mind as Professor Paul Fussell's elegant and entertaining book on British inter-War travellers of the Waugh and Isherwood ilk drew to its close. 'After encountering a number of these books,' writes Professor Fussell, in his last chapter but one, 'it's time to inquire what they are'; and he goes on with words like 'designate', 'definition' and 'complicated territory', until in the next paragraph, having written his two hundred pages on travel books, he decides: 'Let's call them travel books'.

The professor's kindergarten tone does not disturb me in the slightest. What is disturbing is the apparent failure of the author to aim his book in one direction and keep it pointed firmly in that direction; this is a common problem with popular criticism. On the one hand we have the avid reader of bedtime entertainments taking a sincere and perfectly attractive pleasure in travel books-as which of us does not, at some time or other? And on the other we have the American professor rattling and shaking at boxes ...


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