In 2015, Rebecca Lowe set out on a year long cycling trip from London to Tehran, a journey that revealed a splintered mosaic of cultures, countries and languages, each with their own unique traditions. We talked about the Arab Spring, the promise of Sudan, and the stark cultural divides within cosmopolitan Iran.
Martha Gellhorn wanted to be known as a novelist. Instead, she’s remembered as one of the 20th century’s greatest war correspondents. She wrote about what war does to ordinary people, and the despair of those who have lost everything. Biographer Caroline Moorehead joins me to talk about this remarkable woman.
One People is a comic novel but Cousins Cove is a real village, and the stories Guy Kennaway tells were gathered during his first ten years as an idle British expat. We spoke about Jamaican culture, the legacy of slavery, and why he’s a passionate advocate for Patwa, the national language.
Turn-of-the-century Vienna was a cultural crucible where the air seethed with repressed desire. No artist captured this more vividly than Egon Schiele. Sophie Haydock imagines herself into his world in her debut novel The Flames.
W.G. Sebald has been described as “a writer of almost unclassifiable originality”. He wrote about the plight of emigrants, and in particular, emigrants from the Holocaust. His obsessions included survivor’s guilt, the nature of decline and fall, loss and decay, and the downward plunge of nature and history. I discussed Sebald's life and work with his biographer Carole Angier.
David Eimer is the author of the critically acclaimed The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China. We spoke about that country's tumultuous border regions, and how different ethnic minorities have tried to keep their culture alive beneath the Han yoke.
Dervla Murphy has been described as a ‘travel legend’ and ‘the first lady of Irish cycling’. For five decades she’s travelled the world in a series of truly remarkable journeys, mostly alone and mostly on foot. I had the great fortune to speak with her a week after her 90th birthday. We talked about the loss of traditional cultures, travel in the pre-internet age, and the general state of the world.
Nigel Barley wrote one of the funniest travel books I've ever read, and it nearly got him kicked out of his academic discipline. We spoke about the grim reality of fieldwork, his odd attraction for monkeys, and why fiction tells us more than anthropology about what it means to be human.