cover image At Home and Abroad

At Home and Abroad

V. S. Pritchett / Author North Point Press $19.95 (332p) ISBN

Pritchett is justly admired as a remarkable short story writer and critic, but few readers think of him as a travel writer. Yet during the decade of the mid-'50s to mid-'60s he wrote superlative travel essays for Holiday magazine, and they are reprinted here for the first time. Pritchett writes with a winning combination of pith, elan and exactitude, and can evoke a landscape or a national trait with great economy and vividness. He is also curious, open and uncensorious, in a way that lets the individuality of countries and customs shine through. His only drawback is one he shares with that other great travel writer, Jan Morris: taking the rather Olympian view, only occasionally does he allow a human interchange to interrupt the grand rumination. That said, the chief caveat about these essays is that so many of them have become museum pieces. A wide-eyed Latin American journey in 1956 now seems ludicrously outmoded, and even the brilliant, wide-ranging essay on the British character would require updating today. The quality of thought and image, however, shows no tarnish from the lapse of time. (May)