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The Way of the World, Nicolas Bouvier

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The Way of the World is story of a journey, of itinerant forays in a Fiat 500 Topolino, taking place in the mid-20th century between Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. The story centres around the author and his painter friend Thierry Vernet. It’s a tale of a maiden voyage, a story of youth – Nicolas Bouvier is only 25 years old – but which stunningly combines poetic aspects with intellectual reflections, embedded in a harsh reality, like the greatest stories of this genre.


The use of the world

‘Being deprived of necessities stimulated, to a certain extent, an appetite for what was essential’.

‘The virtue of travelling is that it purges life before filling it up’.

‘It had to be a flourishing civilisation to speak about women in that tone of mystery. With its tanned daughters, its fresh starched linin, its cows out to pasture and the neighbouring gypsies as leaven in the dough, peasant-Bogojevo had plenty to be pleased about’.

‘In the time it took to smoke a few cigarettes, they made their strings sob for the simple pleasure of turning one’s soul upside down’.

‘They listened with their eyes closed in pleasure, smiles on their hatchet faces’.

‘It was a successful kind of Sunday. The miller, a jolly sort of type, loaded a few cartridges and shot a couple of hens, he then took them into his mill where he proceeded to stagger about fleecing them. Meanwhile his friends, smiles on their faces, flailed around with their guns, going off in all directions. With the chamois leather thoroughly washed, we lay down on the grass for one of those deep siestas where your back leaves an imprint in the ground. At around six o’clock when nobody was stirring, we returned to Prilep’.

‘These old jokers are what the town has to offer for a break from seriousness. As they get old and go on their way, they concern themselves with pertinence and detachment and become similar to those good men who children draw on walls. Good men, that is what we are missing where I am from, where the mentality has really developed to the detriment of sensitivity, but not a day passes where you do not meet one of these people, full of malice, insensitivity and sap, hay bailers or cobblers, who make me want to open my arms and burst into tears’.

‘We count on their recipes to get a new lease of life, they rely on ours to live. We go down the path, without always understanding, and sometimes the traveller loses patience, but there is a lot of selfishness in this impatience’.

The use of the world

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