Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
A Voyage Across the Americas - The Journey of Henri de Buren Paperback – November 23, 2013
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
The author takes you on a stunning journey through the Americas during a time where there was no tourist infrastructure. This Swiss travelogue provides a window of that era and inspiration for your own adventures.
Henri de Büren's journey took him from Switzerland to Canada, southward through the growing United States, to Cuba, Mexico, Panama, and across the incredible natural landscapes of Peru and Brazil. A treasure of insights were recorded not just in his journals and the letters home to his family but also in the magnificently descriptive drawings and paintings of plants and landscapes that have been located and added to the work (Henri a trained Botanist and artist). Though only 15 drawings were included in the book, the author found out that there is another portfolio out there somewhere containing 134 more that was recorded as sold by Henri's daughter's in the 1920's. Hopefully he'll be able to locate it and insert it into a future edition of this book as Henri was truly a talented artist.
After only a short time in the United States, Henri had already formed a strong opinion of Americans and he recorded the many things he saw good in America and the many things that were sorry. He particularly did not like "Yankees" (and can't resist making mention of it even when he is far away from them in South America). His thoughts on the pitfalls facing the young nation give one pause and I think retain their accuracy more than 160 years later:
"To sum it up, with Americans, the head leads and trumps the heart... reducing all relationships between men to usefulness. There are noble passions that enrich the soul; money spoils and withers it. It seems that greed is blowing a harmful wind upon America, which, when it latches onto what is moral within man, destroys genius and smothers enthusiasm perhaps down to the bottom of the heart, in order to drain the source of noble inspiration and generous impulses."
Henri was so relieved when he finally departed the United States and arrived in Cuba, he recorded in a letter: "At last, here I am in a country that through its nature, its poetry, its originality, its sky and land, its cities and its people, its morals and its physics, is willing to reward my journey."
However, traveling is always difficult, and Henri never quite found satisfaction in any of the places that he traveled. One almost feels sorry for Henri as his impatience with unfamiliar ways of doing things continually grinds away at him. It is the heat and the cold and the bull-fighting (and the bear-fighting!) and the mosquitoes and the ticks, but it is also the lying scoundrels, the cheating rascals, the lazy locals, the Catholic clergy, and in general the great unwashed residents of the new world that try his patience. It gets to be almost comical sometimes, as his frustration with whatever nationality or race he is dealing with at the moment spurs him to typically describe them thus: "...their faults are so numerous and so disagreeable to list and describe that I give up doing it." He constantly sought out the company of fellow-Europeans when he could find them but he even grew weary of the Germans who traveled along with him on part of his journey as their behavior devolved into drunkenness and gunplay.
However, his insular loneliness which stemmed from missing life and family in Switzerland also produced some of the more sublime writing in his journal. Typically, he writes as if he were writing for an audience but a year into his travels he seemingly wrote more to himself:
"How deeply I miss a friend; a comrade, a companion who shares some of the same tastes and ideas as me, and with whom I could converse - a bond, one that enlivens both the heart and the mind. This someone, this friend with whom I could forget the weariness and hardships of the trip, while sharing our time and our thoughts, this someone I have yet to find and will not find. Here I sit, with self-reflection as my only recourse, which is neither good nor agreeable, nor instructive."
By the time that Henri's journal abruptly ends at the mouth of the Amazon and he finally finds a ship for home, you feel as if you've made the exhausting and uniquely wonderful voyage with him. Thanks to Henri's great-great-grandson, we have this valuable diary of a unique time in the history of our world that is gone and never to return, even if the ever-present complaints of the very human traveler will always remain.
Not only is Henri a great naturalist, but also a crisp and entertaining travel writer. His descriptions, color and energy drip from every page. His ride down into a volcano is most exciting and his observation of a bull fight, is very thrilling yet simultaneously depressing.
His writing and illustrations combine the best of Edward Lear (of Owl and Pussycat), John J. Audubon (Elephant Folio) and Rachel Carson (of Silent Spring) into one travelogue, far before the invention of Frodor's or Trip Advisor. Later, Ernest Shackleton, British explorer who led three expeditions to the Antarctic, would chronicle his polar travels, but this is an accounting of no-less-harrowing travels on land.
Not only does he provide accurate botanical, geomorphological and fluvial assessments but fills the pages with anecdotes which give the reader grist for later research. Who else would provide such comment about the native Indians as "their songs and melancholic cries which, I think, are in perfect harmony with the solitude of this great river and the thousands of noises you can hear at night in the Amazon forest."
If you enjoy travel, and appreciate what its like to have fine accommodations, then this story of ticks, mosquitos, and otherworldly critters is sure to keep you entertained.
Hopefully his "long lost" Album and nature illustrations will turn up in some "yard sale" or "e-bay listing" and bring us the entire story of this magical adventure in a time when discovery was still beginning.