Foreign Land (Magill's Literary Annual 1986)
Like Paul Theroux, Jonathan Raban is best known as a travel writer. Old Glory: An American Voyage (1981) was Raban’s fascinating account of piloting a sixteen-foot outboard down Huck Finn’s Mississippi. Even more than William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways: A Journey into America (1983), popular at about the same time, Old Glory was a journey into America’s heartland that exposed both its beauty and its hatreds. Raban’s Arabia: A Journey Through the Labyrinth (1979) is one of the best accounts of that exotic region for prospective visitors.
Like Theroux, Raban is also a novelist, and his skills as a travel writer—keen observation, sensitivity to the details of weather and transportation, the ability to draw ideas from locales—carry over almost intact into his first novel. The background to Foreign Land, the feeling for both land and sea, is one of the strongest aspects of this contemporary English morality tale.
The novel certainly calls on Raban’s vast travel experience. George Grey, the protagonist, a former British naval officer, has run a “bunkering” (refueling) station on the coast of a former Portuguese colony, now the (fictitious) Marxist West African state of Montedor. George has lived for some years in Montedor’s “easygoing, festive” capital of Bom Porto and has even shared the attentions of Vera, the mistress of Montedor’s minister of communications. Life in...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1986)
Booklist. LXXXII, September 1, 1985, p. 30.
Library Journal. CX, October 1, 1985, p. 114.
The London Review of Books. VII, July 4, 1985, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 13, 1985, p. 3.
The New York Review of Books. XXXII, December 5, 1985, p. 35.
The New York Times Book Review. XC, November 3, 1985, p. 9.
Newsweek. CVI, November 11, 1985, p. 79.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXVIII, August 23, 1985, p. 62.
Time. CXXVI, November 11, 1985, p. 92.
Washington Post Book World. XV, October 13, 1985, p. 3.
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