Sunday, May 07, 2006

In Search of Robinson Crusoe

Fact and Fiction interlaced with travel and history
I never read Robinson Crusoe – in fact I never read as a child or for most of my adult life.
Let me qualify that by saying I never read fiction.
I used to spend hours pouring over encyclopaedias and reading non- fiction (or faction as my son calls it – which I think is a far better word).
I can probably list on the fingers of one hand the fiction books I read and reread up to the age of 50: Neville Shute’s A Town like Alice being my favourite.
Yet the irony is I stated writing historical fiction five years ago without having read other historical novels.
One thing University (2001-2004) taught me was to read fiction.
I had to – it was part of the curriculum.
And I started where I should have done 50 years ago with Children’s’ literature.
Now I know what I missed out on.
Now I wish I had more time to read.
As a new reader I try to read across the genres but I find I lean towards historical, and mystery. I like stories based on true events. I lean away from sci-fi, horror and romance.
Having just finished Where the Earth Ends (a journey beyond Patagonia) by John Harrison I must go out and buy a copy of Robinson Crusoe.
I didn’t know the true story of Selkirk, the Captain who was left on an uninhabited island (in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago off the coast of Chile - not in the mouth of the Orinoco), the man who trained goats and cats to dance, the man who the fictitious character of Robinson Crusoe was based on.
John also whetted my appetite for Drake’s voyages around the Horn in the Golden Hinde. I must read those real-life adventures, also Richard Henry Dana’s, Two Years Before the Mast, which tells of his sighting of the (Crusoe) Juan Fernandez Islands in the 1830s.
Fortunately I had recently purchased the biography of Fitzroy, by John and Mary Cribbin (2003). Captain Fitzroy, besides being the inventor of the weather forecast, was the captain of HMS Beagle which took Charles Darwin to the ends of the earth. I also have a copy of Darwin’s The Voyage of HMS Beagle sitting on my bookshelf.
My only problem now is lack of reading time.

Note for John Harrison: I thoughly enjoyed Where the Earth Ends (see posting below). It whetted my appetite to know more about the places, the people and the history of this region. It allowed me to relive the fantastic voyage I took from Valpariso in Chile, via Tierra del Fuego and the Antarctic Peninsular to Buenos Aires in Argentina.
The top of my wish list now is to sail on a square rigger from Ushuaia to the Antarctic.
Photo: M. Muir - Osorno Volcano - Chile

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