Adam Hopkins

Holy Trails

The Santiago Pilgrimage: Walking the Immortal Way

By

MacLehose Press 234pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

The dramatic revival in recent years of interest in the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route to the (supposed) tomb of St James the Apostle in Galicia, feeds on the publicity provided by YouTube, television documentaries, feature films and websites offering Camino wet-weather and lightweight walking gear. But it is also due to a heartening extent to books. Shirley MacLaine’s undemanding pursuit of her deepest ‘self’ brought US fans galore to the Camino; the magical fantasies of Paulo Coelho drew Brazilians in thousands; then, in 2006, came the sardonic German TV personality Hans-Peter (Hape) Kerkeling’s lively and unusual I’m Off Then, which brought a rush of Germans to Santiago, in a process known as the ‘HP effect’.

The Santiago Pilgrimage is the English translation (a slightly showy one: who needs the word ‘lacustrine’?) of a book by Jean-Christophe Rufin that has had great success in France, adding to the considerable number of French pilgrims on the Camino. It is a wonderful piece of writing, full of perception – of landscapes, people, self – about a journey based on solitude and physical endeavour into an interior world. There’s a good dose of chatty demystification and anecdotes that make you laugh aloud. But Rufin can also write in fine lyrical mode, though he never goes on too long about anything.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,