No. 29: “Venture to the Interior” by Laurens van der Post
Travel Blog • Frank Bures • 05.03.06 | 11:40 AM ET
To mark our five-year anniversary, we’re counting down the top 30 travel books of all time, adding a new title each day this month.
Territory covered: Malawi
In 1949, while the world was still licking its war wounds, Laurens van der Post set off for the British colony of Nyasaland (now Malawi) to map two mountains still unknown to cartographers. But his account of the trip is no mere expedition tale. Van der Post’s voice is devoid of machismo, even when one of his party members dies. Instead, his venture to the interior is more existential, and he isn’t afraid to muse in the manner of St. Exupery—a refreshing break from much of today’s vapid extreme outdoor culture. “I have always bought as little and made as few arrangements as possible,” he writes. The book has a resonance beyond its clean, quiet prose—a kind of melancholy self-reflection. In one instance, he asks, “Has there been another age that, knowing so clearly the right things to do, has so consistently done the wrong ones?” Reading this book is certainly one of the right ones.
Outtake from Venture to the Interior:
I was quite certain, for my part, that I did not deserve such a Messianic reception, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I was fully convinced long before they led us into the village that we were really welcome. It is worth walking and climbing a long way to have that feeling. It is a good, healing, human feeling, and helps to melt some of the ice, and the calculation in our cold, dehumanized, limited-liability twentieth century hearts.
For more about Laurens van der Post, check out his Wikipedia page.
—Frank Bures is the books editor of World Hum.