‘Cloud Road’, J. Harrison

This book started out very slow — my thoughts on its quality ranging from one extreme to the other. After all, how can we describe the wonders of the Andes in mere words? Especially with the skill the author was displaying to begin with. But, and this is the crucial issue, the author’s style changed half-way through the book and that was definitely for the better.

First, I’ll add that Mr Harrison included a very helpful number of comments on the areas he passed through, musing over their history and politics when he could. In a way, therefore, this book acted both as a history of the Tahuantinsuyu as well as the people there — something far different from the single-minded travel writing I had expected. And that was a very good change for not only did I learn plenty of the history of the places, I would now know to look at these places were I to go to Peru. In a way, therefore, it was not so much as a travel book than a guide, and that side of the book really does need to be praised.

The style of the author was excellent in the last three sections of the book. I do not know what changed, but the tone became more resigned and therefore more powerful. If an author is unwilling to write of how things are, then the words feel forced and the story suffers. But, as soon as Mr Harrison got past the first obstacles of that kind, his prose took on an eloquent form, intermixed with humour and tangents on geography/history/politics.

That is one of my main reasons for liking this work as much as I do. Especially since based on the beginning of the book I was doubting whether there would be value in reading it to the end, but I am very happy I did so.

The one other aspect that the author describes which is not usually seen in travelogues are the emotions that he goes through. I believe that this is part of what makes the book feel more real. These emotions also guarantee that there are more stories than the one of the walk down the Inca’s Royal Road, and I found it interesting to try to figure out what would happen. Therefore, I have to say that in many ways there was only one way this book could have ended.

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