January 9th, 2021

On the writing style of travelogues (1822)

A traveller is allowed to say: “I was at New York, thence I embarked for South America, I made my way back as far as Santa-Fe-de-Bogota. The gnats and mosquitoes made my life a misery during the journey, and for three days I couldn’t use my right eye.” The traveller is not accused of loving to talk of himself: all his me’s and my’s are forgiven; for that is the clearest and most interesting manner of telling what he has seen.

Stendhal, On Love (1822)

The Soviet writer Lev Nikulin used this quote as an excuse for the digressive structure of his 1933 travelogue Seven Seas ("Семь морей"), in which anecdotal and quotidian seem to overpower the main thesis.