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The Way of the World (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 27, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In 1953, the author and an artist friend left Yugoslavia and worked their way across Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Bouvier's recollections of their 18 months of travel captures the timeless nature of what happens when different cultures interact regardless of the events surrounding them. Originally published in 1963 under the title, L'Usage du Monde, the book became a cult classic in France and was translated into several European languages. Because it covers countries that have become accessible to all peoples through world events and the media, it seems appropriate that the book is available for the first time in English. For large travel collections.
- Elizabeth Loftus, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Lyrical reminiscences of a footloose journey from Yugoslavia to India, undertaken 40 years ago by the then-25-year-old author of the enchanting The Japanese Chronicles (1992) and an equally young companion. Traveling in a distinctly fractious Fiat, the two friends, appealingly optimistic and resourceful, make their way ``on the cheap,'' settling in at peasant inns, earning their expenses by writing articles, delivering lectures, and organizing exhibitions. Perhaps because of their winning ways, they attract a colorful band of cohorts as they wend their way eastward--beggars and brigands, muezzins and Marxists. In recounting his adventures, Bouvier frequently provides thought-provoking insights: At one point, discussing the shortcomings of US humanitarian aid programs, he observes that ``practicing charity demands endless tact and humility''--qualities he finds lacking even in well-intentioned Americans; later, he points out that, ``like a mirror, an intelligent face is the same age as what it reflects.'' Wherever he travels, Bouvier displays an artist's eye for the image-conjuring detail: a moustache ``like a furled umbrella''; a Tabriz cinema in which the projectionist, eager to get home, speeds up his machine until ``the story would take on a disturbing pace: caresses looked like slaps, ermine-clad empresses hurtled downstairs.'' Throughout, Robyn Marsack's translation from the French is a model of lucidity and smoothness, capturing the author's unique blend of humanity and humor, and, as a bonus, there's a gracefully appreciative introduction by travel-writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. Travel writing to be cherished and reread. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590173228
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173220
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 8, 1997
Format: Hardcover
The Way of the World takes me back to when a generation traveled the world with backpacks, motorcycles and VW buses.
It is a travel log set in the late fifties, of two casual travelers in their early twenties, who set off on a trip from Europe to India to explore the backroads and see life in its essence as lived by the local people.
The book paints the pictures of gypsys, artists, mountain families and ancient cities with bazaars, using local color and the eye of an artist.
Those who have traveled with similiar resources will enjoy the challenges of the innovative repair of an old Fiat in the middle of a desert, the capricousness of venturing into another country with only pocketchange, and the discovery that most people in the world do have a love of strangers.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I envy him. I envy his travels and his writing. For me Bouvier writes the best travel novels. It s something different. He doesn't describe the country. he simply lives country's life. Stays somewhere in Anatolia for a month, then suddenly one day decides it is time. Time to go, time to travel.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Robert Dubose on March 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A remarkable little book that doesn't fit any category.

It is hardly a travel essay. Bouvier gives no overview of the cultures he visits. His descriptions of sites and scenes are often minimal.

Nor is it a chronicle of a personal journey. Bouvier provides little internal monologue. Although he occasionally makes philosophical pronouncements, his tone is distanced and impersonal, curious and objective. He looks outward, not inward.

It reads more like a series of impressionistic short stories. I enjoyed most the literary snapshots of people in the 1950s in Yugoslavia, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan. Against a remote backdrop of religious extremism, bribe-taking officials, and tyranny in one form or another, Bouvier finds individuals who love life, seek pleasure, chase irrational dreams, and give unselfishly to needy travelers. More than anything else, it is a book about hospitality in an inhospitable world.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William on March 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The setting for the book is this lengthy road trip from Europe to the Khyber Pass back in the 50s. I did a similar trip in 1970.

The strength of the writing is all in the understanding and insightful nature of the descriptions of the daily doings. It's not exciting or hair-raising, though certainly it held my interest throughout. Quite a few times I read a paragraph where I stopped and commented to my sister or wife, "Listen to this". And then just read aloud that snippet.

The author and his buddy were a journalist and an artist taking a year long journey in a small and problem prone Fiat auto of the time. And stopping in towns where they would stay for a night or a couple weeks or even longer. They were trying to raise money from their work as they went along. Everybody understands that need, so they were on a more level footing with those who they encountered.

This is certainly a fine book, and I'd recommend it to any thoughtful person.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was the `50's, and two authors hit the road. Since having read it, I think that Jack Kerouac's work, with the subject title is vastly overrated. He bounced back and forth between the oceans that encompass America, and seemed to see so little. But Nicolas Bouvier, seven years younger, was so much more perceptive, and undertook a bolder and more arduous journey, in a beat-up Fiat, with his artist companion Thierry Vernet.

At 25 they simply did not have the financial resources to undertake the trip, so they "had to wing it," and more than once benefited from the kindness of strangers. As an epigraph, he quotes Shakespeare: "I shall be gone and live, or stay and die." And to those that have done it, the end of his preface rings true: "Traveling outgrows it motives. It soon proves sufficient in itself. You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making you - or unmaking you."

Bouvier was one of the trail-blazers along what would become known as the "hippie route to India" in the `70's. He is Swiss French, from Geneva; he meets Thierry in Yugoslavia. They travel on through Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and into Afghanistan, with the book, but not the journey (apparently) ending at the Khyber Pass, between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It takes them 18 months to complete this portion (they "wintered" in Tabriz, Iran). They both have an astonishingly well-developed aesthetic sense, and are quite knowledgeable in a broad range of fields, particularly for their age. And they are observant, both of their surroundings, and human nature. They have a "knack" for dealing with government officials, and the people of the road.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra Stewart on February 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book on the strength of it having an introduction written by a favourite author, Patrick Leigh Fermor. Lke Fermor's "Time of Gifts", "The Way of the world" is a road story extraordinaire. Why? Because the writing is superb. It's erudite, concise and topical for today's reader in that Bouvier comprehends what makes the heart and soul tick of the people he meets. Especially relevant are the journeys through Serbia, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan moreover he describes them in an objective but kindly manner; he is a humanist with an aesthetic sensibility.
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