qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

The Antidote to Travel Writing

Book Review: Off the Map, by Alastair Bonnett
A light volume from the work book sale, the volume examines places that have either been and gone, have somewhat unofficial, proscribed, or just plain baffling status, or barely exist at all. Among the (slightly) more familiar places are Leningrad, the Aralqum Desert, Pripyat and Sealand; I'm in more obscure territory (no pun intended ... well, maybe) on Time Landscape, Zheleznogorsk, Gutterspace or the United Kingdom of Lunda Tchokwe. Bonnett catalogues places that have been removed from the map, either physically or politically, places that are consciously hidden, places in-between, places that have been abandoned. As well as giving an overview of the location and its history, he also takes a psychogeographical look at the place: what does it mean to be there, why would people go/stay/leave, does it offer insights into the human condition, and so on. Places of legal exception for one reason or another, such as Camp Zeist or "Bright Light, 4 Mures Street, Bucharest"; enclaves such as Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog ("After an exhaustive examination of every last marriage, divorce, concordat and claim behind the Baarle enclaves, the pre-eminent expert on the topic, Professor Brendan Whyte [surely some relation, nwhyte?], simply shrugged his shoulders"); floating islands and ephemeral places complete the book. It's entertaining, but never goes much more than surface deep, so maybe it's for the best that the Schleswig-Holstein question is not addressed here.
Tags: books, history, places
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