There’s a moment in which the treasures of life are unveiled before two eyes and an unprepared soul; things which the globe kept and prepared throughout the centuries, so that it took presence in a sudden gift, sublime instant in which by his gigantic and noiseless brushstroke, God shows us his major productions! One enters a cathedral or contemplates the power of nature in the rise and splash of a whale falling on its back, and at such discourse of beauty, life itself blooms in the traveler’s spirit, certain that he is extracting a portion of his future sentimental life. Yet, they seem far to us, there in perpetual pose: the Sistine Chapel, the Pyramids, the Seine, the sound of a Spanish guitar, a cemeter in Edinburgh, the diamond glaciers and the lighthouse at the end of the world; everything that life could carve over the ages!
All we need is a good man that recounts between roads and deserts, in tranquil restoration as the poets say, all the worlds that entered through his eyes and through his ears, and all the flavours that he is able to retain. Architecture, fashion, nature... The histories of a single culture may congregate and parade upon the traveler’s feet!
Over the years I have acquired the custom of getting mocked for reading vain pages from these vain authors, but I find in them that which literary authors cannot provide me with. How many times do we come across a revered writer, who dragged by the power of his hand and the ingenuity of his thought, has his resources turned on him, and is trapped in this extensive trace of talking about what he does not know? Words words words and the volumes are filled.
But this is not a frequent issue in non-literary authors. No, sir. When it is not the obsession with an idea, but the order of events that motivate a traveller to write, the text gains an extraordinarily genuine vital force. Certainly, we may find it not exempt of stylistic corrections, but strength will always prevail. We may encounter writers who have to prove their theories in action, intervene in political disputes, or personal diaries and travelling journals, which are the ones I relish the most.
Provide, then, that traveller with ink and paper to lighten his mind, and a pint of beer to enjoy the nights, and a roof and bed to rest his legs, will allow nothing but sweet literature to leave from his hands. For when the state of mind works in unity with that of the external world, poetic thought comes out as decantation. And, if our traveler recounts this with the virtue of having a well-trained taste, driven by the spontaneous admiration of Chesterton’s Francis — to whom a bird went by like an arrow, something with a story and a purpose, a purpose of life — then he, fastened to the window with his eyes fixed on the outside, will all collect, and meditating profoundly, will handle words in order to achieve the expression of what the head conceives upon the greatest spectacles, and will write for us, and will make of his memories our memories, and of his travels our enjoyment.