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Word Count: 935
Tour dhorizon The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton 272pp Hamish Hamilton Alain de Botton like many Londoners finds himself staring up at passing aeroplanes with envy There high above the mundane artefacts and actions of our everyday lives those great steel birds float gracefully down to earth Mesmerised by their bulk de Botton marvels that above Slough is a plane that a few hours ago was flying over the Caspian Sea the plane a symbol of worldliness carrying within itself a trace of all the lands it has crossed De Botton ponders the gulf that exists between everyday reality and the imagined liberation that travelling abroad can bring When he sets out to describe his own everyday reality he writes eloquently and with finely tuned powers of observation Recalling a wintry sky de Botton likens it to something in a painting by Mantegna or Veronese calling it a perfect backdrop to the crucifixion of Christ or to a day beneath the bedclothes The Art of Travel seems to have a simple enough theme What we seek by travelling may in fact be something we lack at home De Botton is not the first to point this out and he quotes many famous travellers who have discovered the pitfalls of seeking refuge like Baudelaire Anywhere Anywhere So long as it is out of the world All too often the traveller who escapes desperately may find himself equally bored in an exotic location something de Botton discovered on a painfully ill- advised trip to Barbados He is not a writer who revels in the opportunity to impart a romanticised sense of the tropics being far more successful when he evokes the misery of a cheap hotel room in Madrid the view from an airport car park or the fluorescent glare of a motorway service station Like many modern travellers de Botton occasionally enjoys the sense of limbo we are granted
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