Christopher Ondaatje

Boldly Going

The Faber Book of Exploration

By

Faber & Faber 800pp £25 order from our bookshop

No one has been excluded without good reason from this anthology of the writings of the world’s greatest explorers, past and present: in his sensitive and thought-provoking introduction Benedict Allen has taken a great deal of trouble to explain how he made his choices. To elucidate his own understanding of what exploration is, he quotes some of today’s best-known explorers. The enigmatic Ranulph Fiennes, the first man to reach the North and South Poles overland, defines an explorer as ‘someone who has done something that no human has done before – and also done something scientifically useful’. Chris Bonington, a leading mountaineer of the postwar generation, says simply: ‘You have to have gone somewhere new.’ And the aged Wilfred Thesiger, who crossed the Empty Quarter in 1946, points out: ‘If I’d gone across by camel when I could have gone by car, it would have been a stunt.’ For him, ‘exploration meant bringing back information from a remote place regardless of any great self-discovery’. Allen admits that, being a writer, his interest is ‘skewed towards the exploration of ideas’. Nevertheless, he concludes sensibly that ‘exploration is about pushing back a frontier of knowledge, mental or physical; crucial to the process is the reporting back of that new information.’

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Englishmen Abroad in the Reign of Henry VIII'. Free lecture by Dr Susan Brigden, Thurs 18 Oct, 6.30pm Europe Hou… ,
    • It 'contains twists and near misses and bit-part players, everything you might expect from a true-crime story'. Ian… ,
    • Oh normally a week or two before the ceremony itself - so mid-November. ,
    • Ian Sansom reviews The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by… ,
    • 'It is hard to think of an economist who could craft such an elegantly readable account of postwar failure as this.… ,
    • Frederick Forsyth reviews The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by ,
    • . reviews What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain by James Hamilton-Paterson ,