Postcolonial Travel Writing in the Twentieth Century

  • Barbara Korte


The postcolonial world has been affected by travel in many respects: the countries in question were ‘discovered’, explored, conquered or settled by people who came to them from Europe. Displacement is an experience particularly associated with the postcolonial condition, which, for many individuals, entails a history of transportation, migration, expatriation, diaspora or exile. If travel is of special pertinence to Britain’s former colonies, the travel writing produced in these parts of the world has been practically ignored by scholars until recently — with the prominent exception of V.S. Naipaul. The number of travel writers from the ‘Commonwealth’ seems small indeed if compared to the mass of travel writers from the British Isles. Nevertheless, the colonial world formerly travelled by Britons is increasingly travelling itself, and its modes of travel writing deserve to be examined in their own right.


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  1. 4.
    It should also be remembered that long before the first moves towards decolonization, colonized people wrote about their travel experiences, both enforced and voluntary. Excerpts from eighteenth-century accounts of enslaved Africans from the Caribbean are collected in Edwards and Dabydeen (1991). The most famous of these accounts, by Olaudah Equiano, is also available in a separate edition, as is the well-known book of a Black Victorian traveller, Mary Seacole. Seacole’s Wonderful Adventures (1857) is discussed by Gikandi (1996, pp. 125–43), who emphasizes Seacole’s attempt to inscribe herself, as a black woman from the West Indies, into the dominant discourse of Englishness.Google Scholar
  2. 9.
    For Australian travel books which similarly emphasize the injustice to the aboriginals, see Robyn Davidson’s Tracks (1980), orGoogle Scholar
  3. Barry Hill’s The Rock (1994).Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    Nixon (1992, p. 55), quoting from Charles Michener, ‘The Dark Visions of V. S. Naipaul’, Newsweek, 16 November 1981, pp. 104–15.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    For other contemporary accounts of domestic travel in Canada see, for example, David McFadden’s Trips Around the Great Lakes (1980–8),Google Scholar
  6. George Gait’s Whistlestop: A Journey Across Canada (1987),Google Scholar
  7. Marian Botsworth Fraser’s Walking the Line (1989) andGoogle Scholar
  8. Stuart McLean’s Welcome Home (1992).Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    A relatively secure sense of belonging marks domestic travel writing from India, such as Narayan’s The Emerald Route (1977) or, more recently,Google Scholar
  10. Royina Grewal’s In Rajasthan (1997) — even though the vastness of India also leaves much to discover for its home tourists.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Breytenbach’s account of a return visit to South Africa before his imprisonment, A Season in Paradise, was originally written in Afrikaans and published in an English translation in 1980. Other accounts of return travels to South Africa with a strong political interest are David Robbins’s The 29th Parallel (1986) and Justin Cartwright’s Nor Yet Home (1996).Google Scholar
  12. Dan Jacobson’s The Electronic Elephant: A Southern African Journey (1994), by contrast, is less focused on contemporary politics as on the region’s colonial history.Google Scholar

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© Catherine Matthias 2000

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  • Barbara Korte

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