Friday, February 12, 2010

And the Post Office is a bit crap as well.

Rebecca West - hats off!

I’ve been reading Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West’s 1942 account of her travels in Yugoslavia in the late 1930s and this particular passage struck me.

She’s visiting Sarajevo and is discussing the Town Hall with a Bosnian Serb friend. The friend is upset that the Town Hall, built by the former occupying Austrian empire, is in a Turkish style.

He’s convinced this shows the town’s Muslims were favoured by the Austrians, but Ms West isn’t so sure and remarks;

Actually it is the Moslems who have the most reason to complaint of this Town Hall, for their architecture in Sarajevo is exquisite in its restraint and amiability, and even in modern times has been true to that tradition. But this was designed by an Austrian architect, and it is stuffed with beer and sausages down to its toes. It is harshly particoloured and has a lumpish two-storied loggia with crudely fretted arches, and it has little round windows all over it which suggests that it is rich beyond the dreams of avarice in lavatories, and its highly ornamented cornices are Oriental in a pejorative sense. The minaret of the mosque beside it has the air of a cat that watches a dog making a fool of itself.”

You won’t find anything like that in a Lonely Planet guide and I think we're all the worst for it.

26 comments:

Kettle said...

That's great, Ramon.

Does a non-Contiki/Lonely Planet subgenre of travel writing actually exist?

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Oh indeed, Kettle.

There's a good chunk of travel writing which is intelligent, lyrical and amusing.

Perseus said...

Awesome.

As for other literary travel books, I do suggest avoidoiding Charmaine Clift. Yes, well written.. But what a downer. Here's my impersonation:

"From my deck atop the Corfu mountain I watch the ancient sun dramatically descend into Posiedon's open mouth. The villagers gasp at this act of breathtaking beauty. I want to die. I hate life."

Perseus said...

And also, she spells her name Charmaine, 'Charmian'.

Well, that's her name. I'm just being a cunt.

Mr E Discharge said...

Will no poetry be slammed this day?

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Mr E, all the moaning minnies said the last PSF was too depressing and the one I had planned for this week was even more depressing.

I didn't want a spate of wrist- slashing on my hands.

I'm not Charmian Clift, you know.

eat my shorts said...

"...The minaret of the mosque beside it has the air of a cat that watches a dog making a fool of itself.”

Awesomest description in the whole entire world.

I'm in the mood for a depressing PSF. Bring it.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

That bit is probably my favourite as well, EMS.

Before I post that PSF, I require your insurance details.

You do have $10,000,000 in public liability insurance, don't you?

Perseus said...

Oops.
Well, mine wasn't poetry, so go right ahead.

eat my shorts said...

You do have $10,000,000 in public liability insurance, don't you?

I can't believe you even need to ask.

Puss In Boots said...

Is anyone else watching the debate between Monckton and Lambert? My head is exploding.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Who's winning, Puss?

Puss In Boots said...

Well, they're not really giving Lambert a chance to refute the things Monckton is saying. When he answers one of the audience members, I think Lambert should be able to give his side of it, but they're not giving him the opportunity.

The whole thing just makes me want to smack my head against a wall, because I can see what Monckton is spouting is ridiculous, but I bet the audience is being taken in by it.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Well, that can't be right Puss, because Kitten has already demonstrated that human-caused climate change is a myth.

Puss In Boots said...

Yep. Because 90+% of the world's scientists are wrong.

And anyway, even if they are, I don't see the harm in changing our behaviour in any event. Wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry?

Melba said...

That's great Ramon. I enjoyed reading Lady Montagu Wortley travel diaries from the old days in those necks o' the woods. Simply splendid.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon really is the most extraordinary book Melba.

It's a mixture of travel book, history, political analysis and philosophical musings.

It's also 1,149 pages long.

I'm up to page 373 and I'm beginning to flag a little.

Alex said...

I'd say that Monckton is a much better speaker than Lambert, which unfortunately probably counts for a fair bit when they're both quoting from source documents that most people are never going to actually look at and evaluate for themselves.

I can also say that that was about the most annoying performance by a host that I've heard in a long time.

Kettle said...

Ramon, who would you suggest? I've got a few odds and sods on my shelves, like Clive James, Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson, but actually haven't read many of them (part from Byson on the Apalachian trail).

And Perseus, brilliant impersonation. Poor Charmian Clift could be in the middle of a six-way with you, Pony Girl, the Krauts and the surfer chap and still be reaching for the sleeping pills.

And I think it's perfectly acceptable to be disparaging of people's names. I went to primary school with a girl whose surname was 'Peamoley'; we were pretty comfortable sharing our thoughts on that with her.

Ooh and Ramon! You promised to serialise Slessor's poem, but I couldn't wait. So the dude fell overboard from a Sydney ferry, eh? That'll learn him for trusting NSW public transport.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Clive James, Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson are all worthwhile but Freya Stark is also worth a crack.

And nobody ever drowned falling out of a Melbourne tram.

So nyeer.

Kettle said...

Thanks Ramon, I'll see if I can track down some of Freya Stark's books. And Lady Montagu Wortley too, cheers Melba.

And Ramon, no cyclist was ever killed getting their tyre stuck in a tram track on a Sydney ferry, so nyeer backatcha.

Melba said...

My daughter almost drowned getting off a tram in Melbourne yesterday afternoon.

I'm serious. She couldn't wear her school shoes today because they are still saturated and I had to write a note.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

There was indeed a shit-load of rain yesterday, Melba.

Have you see the photos of the blokes swimimg up Elizabeth Street?

Melba said...

I did. Amazing.

Lewd Bob said...

Clive James, Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson

Top blokes. Bryson is quite the researcher. He fucked up with his assessment of Ned Kelly though - see the Ian Jones preface for details.

Isn't Alan Jones moderating that debate? Sounds totally neutral to me.



CUNT!

Alex said...

Isn't Alan Jones moderating that debate?

Yes.

CUNT!

Yes.