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Dans ce captivant recueil de récits qui est aussi un livre de vie, Russell Banks, explorateur impénitent, invite son lecteur à l’accompagner dans ses plus mémorables voyages – des Caraïbes à l’Himalaya en passant par l’Écosse. Entretien avec Fidel Castro à Cuba, folles virées en voiture à l’époque hippie, expériences diversement radicales, relations entretenues avec ses quatre épouses successives, autant d’étapes formatrices aux allures de quête de soi qui ouvrent chez le lecteur un chemin vers le cœur et l’âme d’un romancier aussi fameux que respecté.
Although billed as "travel writings," the 10 introspective essays collected in this volume explore their author's emotional geography as much as the far-flung lands he visits. In the lengthy title piece, which recounts "a winter-long, island-hopping journey through the Caribbean," Banks finds occasion to relate the details of his three failed marriages to his travel companion, his fourth-wife-to-be. Acknowledging that the wanderlust that spurs his travels is an outgrowth of his personal tendency to flee from those whose emotional needs he cannot satisfy, he observes, "I could see clearly that my courtship narrative and this peripatetic voyage through the archipelago ran parallel to each other in ways both exculpatory and condemning, the one reflecting, enabling, and explicating the other." Banks's descriptions are visually evocative, and his eye for detail is sharpened by the near-spiritual resonance that his travel destinations have for him. Recalling a Zen moment experienced while mountain-climbing in the Andes, he reflects that "one climbs a mountain for the same reason one enters a monastery: to pray." Whether he's traveling through the swamps of the Everglades, the former slaving grounds of Dakar, or the Russian settlement of Alaska (which he describes piquantly as "a Chekhov story waiting to be told"), Banks makes a magnificent tour guide for landscapes both within and without.