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The Way of the World

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  694 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
In 1953, twenty-four-year old Nicolas Bouvier and his artist friend Thierry Vernet set out to make their way overland from their native Geneva to the Khyber Pass. They had a rattletrap Fiat and a little money, but above all they were equipped with the certainty that by hook or by crook they would reach their destination, and that there would be unanticipated adventures, cu ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by NYRB Classics (first published 1963)
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Douglas Dalrymple
Jan 04, 2011 Douglas Dalrymple rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hadn’t heard of Nicolas Bouvier before, but a preface by Patrick Leigh Fermor means something to me: it means that I will definitely buy the book. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I found myself keeping a mental list of dear friends living in ignorance of their sore and pressing need for me to send them a copy of The Way of the World as a gift.

It’s 1953. Bouvier and the painter Thierry Vernet are driving a temperamental Fiat through the Balkans, across Turkey and Iran, to
A few years back a friend asked me why I would want to waste my time and money wandering about the world. I babbled something about how I feel a growing need to experience this way of life, to experience the excitement of not knowing what town or country I'll be in tomorrow, to hold in my hands a one-way ticket to a destination still unknown to me. I doubt I made my reasons clear because she gave me an incredulous look probably thinking to herself: "Oh, you pitiful little dreamer, how can you be ...more
May 29, 2015 Joanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I nie tyle Nicolasa i jego kumpla, ale moja w czytaniu tej książki. Koniec końców, opłaciło się.
Podróż sama w sobie jest fascynująca, ale w czasach, gdy każdy głupek może wsiąść do byle jakiego samolotu, polecieć do Tajlandii lub Wietnamu, zeżreć tam coś i dostać sraczki, a potem przez pół roku wszem i wobec głosić, jaką miał przygodę życia, nie ona stanowi o wartości "Oswajania świata".
Znowuż, podobnie jak u Fermora, najlepsze jest "narratora życie wewnętrzne" - jego refleks
Jun 15, 2011 Cody rated it really liked it
Successful travel writing, as far as I’m concerned, is an exercise in the craft of writing, observation, a bit of adventure, and a willingness to open up, learn, absorb, dig in, and be at least somewhat changed (don't overdo it, though, as the whole "travel as life changing" idea is often petty and forced). The problem with a lot of travel writing is that the adventure—the physicality of the journey—far outweighs the quality of the writing and the knowledge, history, and understanding of the pla ...more
Apr 27, 2010 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
And why should two guys not be able to drive from Belgrade to Goa? With admirable audacity Nicolas and Thierry drive their rusted jalopy from one continent to the next. Somewhere I read that Hilter wanted to build an autobahn from Berlin to India along the the same basic path in order to outdo all the Alexander the Greats, Xerxes, Khans, and other figures to have swept across Anatolia, Persia and the Stans. These figures loom heavily, if not silently, in the narrative. Nicolas and Thierry observ ...more
Jun 18, 2008 Kent rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Fans of the genre would probably give this one another star. Personally, I prefer a few anecdotes in a history book to a little history in a book of anecdotes. Bouvier can't quite avoid those tedious ticks of travel writing: long lists of unrelated and insignifcant observations (a broken doll's head, an out-of tune accordion, the nub of an old man's amputated arm, the state logo on a carton of socialist cigarettes...) intended, I suppose, to give a sort of pointilliste portrait of the landscape; ...more
Colleen Clark
Feb 03, 2010 Colleen Clark rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book - an account by 2 French-Swiss young men driving from Geneva to Afghanistan via Serbia, Greece, Turkey, and Iran in 1953. They were on the road for almost 2 years. Published in French as "L'Usage du Monde."
I was in Turkey myself as a Peace Corps English teacher, 1964-66, and although they spent only a few weeks driving across Anatolia, I found Bouvier's observations spot-on. Turkey has changed so much in the past 40 years that much is almost unrecognizable now, so I especially a
May 10, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a "fast" reader, but I stretched reading this one out as long as I possibly could. Two young men heading East in a Fiat in the summer of 1953 through to 1955 from Belgrade to the Khyber Pass. The world they describe is beautiful, strange, and I suspect far gone. Bouvier is the best sort of travel writer - one you sees the differences but doesn't dwell or worry about them. He is never condescending, nor does he pity or romanticize. His delight and interest in other human beings jumps from th ...more
Piers Moore Ede
Jan 09, 2015 Piers Moore Ede rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite possibly the greatest travelogue ever written, the prose in this extraordinarily lyrical piece of work is, even in translation, sublime. A book I read and reread, recommend regularly, and am never disappointed by. One of my desert island books without question.
Jan 09, 2011 Linny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This 1.5 year trip from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan takes place only 8 years after WWII a time of poverty when certainly few people were traveling to this area. The author is in his mid-20s, has daredevil youth on his side but has sophisticated skills in perception, communication, and language. Beautifully written, a well balanced mix of historical and cultural material with crazy personal adventures of the author and his artist friend - filled with characters, generous or dangerous, but always fa ...more
Jan 26, 2012 René rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: voyages
What a time this was ! A world of tolerance, where people could travel without fearing being arrested for spying in Iran, without fearing being held hostage in Afghanistan... Un magnifique voyage, dans lequel on peut encore mieux se plonger si on a eu la chance de voyager un peu soi-même, afin de pouvoir sentir les odeurs et les sensations vécues par ce voyageur et son ami peintre, qui ont vécu ce qui serait aujourd'hui impossible. Magnifique !
Mar 02, 2016 Alain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
372g : assez conséquent pour résister aux fins d'après midi brumeuses, le plus léger et compact pour être porté en dénivelés dans le sac, un thème qui évade des montagnes pourtant magnifiques mais qui reste pourtant dans le contemplatif, le réflexif, l'évasion : difficile choix de l'objet "inutile" avant de partir en ski rando. Choix heureux de ce récit de voyage dans les années 50 entre les balkans et les portes de l'Inde. Et quelques illustrations formidables.
Citation de fin :"Ce jour-là, j'ai
Joseph Rice
Great travel book. This is what travel writing is all about. Adventure, cultural commentary, getting outside one's comfort zone. The portraits of Iran and Afghanistan in the early 1950s is fascinating, considering the fanaticism that took hold 30 years later.

The translation is lively and full of the author's enthusiasm for the topic.

Highly recommended.
Jun 03, 2014 Tommy rated it liked it
I sometimes like to mix in travel books or fiction about a region when I'm traveling, especially if on the road or train in foreign countries. This one looked to fit the bill. I found it merely okay. The writing is average and the insights nothing exceptional. The experiences are certainly ones anyone traveling through places outside of their norm or comfort zone can relate to experiencing. It was interesting to hear how things have changed over time, especially as Iran and Afghanistan are not p ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Carlton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
A wonderful and illuminating book about the travels of two young Swiss men travelling from Geneva to the Khyber Pass from June 1953 to December 1954, when the world appears to have been a more accessible and safer place.
Bouvier's descriptions of the locations are absorbing and authentic. Starting the main narrative in Yugoslavia (remember when there was a Yugoslavia) Bouvier and his travel companion, Thierry Vernet, set off in a car to travel to India. This is not fast paced book and is evocativ
Zachary Krug
Aug 09, 2011 Zachary Krug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, though its certainly not for everyone.

It's a travel book in its most basic form--really little more than successive journal entries of the author as he and a friend, both from Switzerland, travel overland in a beat up fiat from Yugoslavia to India in 1953, in the course of a year travelling throughout places like Tabriz, Isfahan, Kabul and Quetta, while denying themselves every luxury, so the speak, except that of being slow.

It has its share of travel-book platitude
Aug 28, 2013 Knautiyal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed this book.

It's the tale of two broke, twenty-something Swiss artists in the early 1950s who decide to drive their beat-up old Fiat (the third main character of the narrative) from Europe to the Khyber pass through Yugoslavia, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. Though I can say that the traditions of Muslim hospitality that make the Middle East such a wonderful place to travel survive largely intact despite all the violence of the past fifty years, the book remains in many ways a
Mar 30, 2011 Wayne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The axiom, that the closer words get to capturing it, the more elusive life proves to be, finds full expression here. I can't help but feel Bouvier is having his life and writing it, too: diary revisions under the power of such talent is a cheat. Such wordsmithery can't be bought with all the gold in Fort Knox, yet is so layered and nuanced here that an inescapable chill enters the prose. I recall an old flame taking me to task for revising letters I wrote her on the grounds that she wasn't gett ...more
Dec 28, 2013 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, christmas-2013
3.5 to 4 stars. Solid travel writing. If Patrick Leigh Fermor writes the intro to your book, I'm assuming a halo effect (and was not disappointed)

Not quite in the same league as Fermor (which frankly probably leaves out most everyone) but some solid observations and wonderful turns of phrase.

"After a tiring day at the garage, this return of memories was heaven. Our journey rose and spiraled back on itself. It gave us a sign, we had only to follow. Terence, who was very sensitive to happiness, u
Jul 28, 2011 Ken rated it liked it
This is the tale of two twenty-something pals from France riding around Asia in a "rattletrap Fiat." In fact, the Fiat is one of the star players. The thing is constantly breaking down or being defeated by the weather. Bouvier, an aspiring writer, and his friend Thierry, an aspiring artist, are both accomplished mechanics. But they cannot always fix the thing and they do not always have the parts, which leads to lots of negotiations with the locals.

This takes place in the 1950s (read: a long tim
Jun 30, 2011 DoctorM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely little gem of travel writing. In 1953/54, a very young Nicolas Bouvier set off with a companion from Belgrade to the Khyber Pass in a rattletrap car, hoping to support themselves by a bit of journalism, a bit of portrait painting, and the occasional stand as tavern musicians. "The Way of the World" calls up a lost age when driving from Serbia through Turkey and Iran to Afghanistan was an Adventure rather than suicidal madness an age when the Central Asian parts of the dar al-Islam were ...more
Anthony Gardner
May 02, 2016 Anthony Gardner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually take notes when I read a book for pleasure, but with this one I found myself constantly reaching for my pencil. It's a fascinating account of a road trip which is no longer possible - through Iran when it still had bars and prostitutes, through Afghanistan when a lone Westerner was safe there - and is full of wisdom about travelling in general, both the pleasures and the terrors. It's also brilliantly translated: well done, Robyn Marsack.
Mar 28, 2012 Adam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of very few books I found difficult to finish which is odd considering I have such a strong interest in the countries which were described. The main problem I had with the book was the author's style. He seemed to be a bit too fond of his own voice and was often trying too hard to sound reflective and insightful. Overall this tone of voice made it feel a bit contrived. I felt that there was some kind of intellectual barrier between the author and all the people/experiences he encountered, so ...more
I'm not giving it a rating on purpose. The truth is that so far I have not finished this book and I don't know if I will finish it. Most probably I will read the chapters about Central Asia and Afghanistan and leave it somewher in a guesthouse in Mexico. I am native french speaker (swiss as well), adventurer, traveler and to some extent travel writer myself.

To be honest I find this book a bit boring. Nicolas Bouvier can write in a beautifull way and for sure knows how to use the vast French voca
Robert Hyman
Oct 10, 2015 Robert Hyman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To fransktalende sveitsere reiser i en gammel 2CV fra Serbia til India via Tyrkia, Iran, Pakistan og Afghanistan i 1954-55. De er hippies og ryggsekkturister langt før sånne begrep var oppfunne. De er utstyrt med en trekkspill og gitar som de bruker til å tjene nok slanter til neste etappen på reisen. Detter er en vakker og meget interessant fortelling om det, om en sentral Asia før muslimske fundamentalisme og stormaktspolitikk. Anbefalt!
Jun 05, 2009 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is without a doubt one of the finest travel narratives I have ever read. Bouvier and Vernet's immersion in the cultures and ways of life of the places they visit is total, and the narrative is overflowing with illuminating observations. It's more than just a pleasant read, though; it's relevant, in its reflections on the tumultuous history of Afghanistan, whose defiance towards conquest-seeking farangis is a thread that remains unbroken, even today. The ultimate goal of travel is the gaining ...more
Charles Morisset
Un récit de voyage qu'on ne veut pas terminer tellement sa poésie est forte, simple et fragile a la fois. S'émerveiller et fainéanter dans un monde nouveau est la plus absorbante des activités ;)
Danke Ö1. Nur durch ein Feature über sein Buch Skorpionfisch, habe ich Bouvier für mich entdeckt und natürlich auch lieben gelernt. Dieser Reisebericht ist für mich keine journalistische Arbeit sondern in weiten Teilen echte Literatur. Es finden sich poetische großartige Bilder in diesem Buch sodass ich immer wieder zurückblättern musste, um diese Zeilen wieder und wieder zu lesen. Auch zeichnet Bouvier seine Begegnungen mit Einheimischen und anderen Reisenden so liebevoll lebendig und bunt wie ...more
Aug 04, 2008 Colin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bouvier perfectly navigates the historical trend to approach a journey through Central Asia with orientalist wonder, by casting a fine net of observation, craft, personality, and humility. This book is no less equal to Kerouac's "On the Road." I believe that Bouvier's journey accomplishes more, especially considering the technical challenges (linguistic, political, $$$) whose context he moved through. A detailed read of this book reveals that is possible to engage in Slow Travel in the Age of th ...more
Jul 03, 2011 Judy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This story read like it was written by a Frenchman and I found that it really stalled towards the end. I did not bond or relate to the author, but he took me through another time. A time when women lived inside the walls of their houses (even western ones) not working and rarely visible outside the home, when the poor hunted ample supplies of wild animals, wild lions lived in Iran, people wandered the continents, unrooted by the war and looking for new beginnings, when roads and electricity did ...more
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NYRB Classics: The Way of the World, by Nicolas Bouvier 1 6 Oct 30, 2013 10:11PM  
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Nicolas Bouvier (1929-1998) was a Swiss writer and photographer.

His travels all over the world incited him to recount his experiences and adventures. His work is marked by a commitment to report what he sees and feels, shorn of any pretence of omniscience, leading often to an intimacy bordering on the mystical. His journey from Geneva to Japan was in many ways prescient of the great eastward wave
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“Traveling outgrows its motives. It soon proves sufficient in itself. You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making you - or unmaking you.” 51 likes
“In the end, the bedrock of existence is not made up of the family, or work, or what others say or think of you, but of moments like this when you are exalted by a transcendent power that is more serene than love. Life dispenses them parsimoniously; our feeble hearts could not stand more.” 15 likes
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