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Home Uncategorized Fernweh, Sehnsucht, Brame

Fernweh, Sehnsucht, Brame

Amanda Bell
Elsewhere by Rosita Boland, Doubleday, 288 pp, £14.99, ISBN: 978-1781620496 Writers collect words as travellers collect destinations; this is the structuring principle of Elsewhere, a collection of essays by poet, intrepid traveller and award-winning journalist Rosita Boland. In a beautifully written introductory chapter, “Fernweh”, Boland the poet is to the fore as she describes how she set about composing her own dictionary, adapted from Chambers. Some of these arcane words are used as chapter titles, and also provide a rationale for the content. The collection as a whole is framed by Fernweh, “the pain of not being in foreign parts. A desire to travel. An ache for distant places,” and Sehnsucht, “a longing and yearning in the heart for travels that have been and travels yet to come”. This use of words as keys is an artful way of structuring a book, with a number of topics being constellated around a particular destination. Australia is subtitled “Eleutheromania – an intense desire for freedom” and the chapter describes just this, as Boland’s travel bug took firm hold while on a year-long trip to Australia in 1988. England is “Wunderkammer – A cabinet of curiosities”; the conceit here is that “the cumulative experiences of travelling are akin to creating your own Wunderkammer, which you can perpetually curate afterwards in your memory”. Pakistan is “Brame – a fierce longing, passion”; the backdrop to this excursion is a passionate but complicated love affair back home. Thailand is “Fortuna – goddess of luck, chance and fate”; this trip segues into a contemplation of mortality, her own and that of friends and colleagues, notably a much loved and admired friend and editor at The Irish Times. Japan is “Kintsukoroi – To repair with gold”; it deals inter alia with breakages of all kinds, including that of the human heart. Antarctica is “Quiddity – the essence of a thing”; it touches on the importance of photography in capturing the essence of an experience. Peru is “Onism – awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience”; the side-story in this trip is the author’s reluctance to become involved with a man twelve years her junior, in spite of obvious mutual attraction. Iceland is subtitled “Enfilade – a number of things arranged as if strung on a thread”; it looks at how her varied and unpremeditated life experiences ultimately lead to her career as a feature writer. The final essay, Bali, is subtitled “Volitant…

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