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How to Talk About Places You've Never Been.


by Pierre Bayard; Bloomsbury; 18.99 [pounds sterling] (hardback)

Try telling a geographer not to travel, and you're almost definitely arguing a lost cause. The idea of not physically exploring a place runs counter to geography's soul. Bayard dares to make that argument. By telling tales of individuals throughout history who, for one reason or another, felt compelled to pretend they had visited somewhere they didn't (such as Marco Polo, apparently) he argues that not only is staying at home a perfectly acceptable way of learning about the world, but that it even creates a more complete psychological understanding.

Bayard goes into respectable depth on how you might wish to be able to talk about places you've never been, but finds himself on far shakier ground when presenting the case for why. He contradicts and argues with himself, and seems to suggest that fact and fiction are free to be blurred at will, as long as the eventual outcome corresponds with the audience's view of a place. I'll willingly praise his prose, however his overall argument never really gets off the ground. Indeed, I'm willing to entertain the idea that it's all a hilarious piece of satire, that we are witnessing Bayard the troll. Nevertheless, it's an entertaining read, and a useful questioning of why we undertake all this endless traipsing around the world at all.


Please note: Some tables or figures were omitted from this article.

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Comment:How to Talk About Places You've Never Been.
Author:Fitch, Chris
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2016
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