Marvellous elegy to a disappearing world

2009-03-11 00:00

On the Back Roads: Encounters with People and Places, by Dana Snyman, Tafelberg

AUTHOR Dana Snyman is a man hooked on what he calls “the ecstasy of the open road”. In the five-years he has worked for Weg magazine he has travelled more than 80 000 kilometres and covered much of southern Africa, or at least the less-populated parts, for he is unswervingly uninterested in the urban and the modern.

For Snyman, being on the road is about far more than just rushing to get to your destination. It's about stopping off at places and opening yourself up to people, particularly those who are marginalised or have chosen to live outside the mainstream, and getting a real feel for the landscapes they inhabit.

The son of a church minister who frequently uprooted his family to follow his calling, Snyman obviously sees himself as a nomad at heart, a modern day trekker, at his happiest when he is on the move.

Like his mentor, the writer Bruce Chatwin, he also recognises a general affinity between writing and travelling as forms of mental exploration.

A top seller in the country in Afrikaans, his collection of his best travel pieces marks the first time his work has been published in English. Reading it, it is easy to see why he has such a large following.

An intelligent and perceptive writer, he has an eye for illuminating social detail and a whimsical humour which makes him the ideal travelling companion. An engaging and wonderfully fluid read, On The Back Roads is a marvellous elegy to a South Africa that is fast fading, a retrospective of a disappearing world.

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