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, curious companionship, and sudden illumination along the way. The Way of the World, which Bouvier fashioned over the course of many years from his journals, is an entrancing story of adventure, an extraordinary work of art, and a voyage of self-discovery on the order of Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. As Bouvier writes, “You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making—or unmaking—you.”
…it’s about a journey in the 1950s from Belgrade to India. They try to go to India in a tiny battered Fiat and it takes them several years, these friends, and it probably describes the attraction of travel better than any book I’ve ever read.
A genuine masterpiece, an exhilarating, innocent, perceptive and wholly enjoyable young man’s travel book, and a discovery of the Asian road that by rights deserves to occupy the same shelf as great classics of the genre such as Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana or Eric Newby’s Short Walk in the Hindu Kush.
— The Financial Times
The Way of the World is a masterpiece which elevates the mundane to the memorable and captures the thrill of two passionate and curious young men discovering both the world and themselves. Racy and meditative, romantic and realistic, the book is as brilliant as Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts, but with its erudition more lightly worn and as alive as Kerouac’s On the Road, though without a whisper of self-aggrandisement…On every page a gem or two glitters, and the accumulation of colour, detail and inspired metaphor produce an intensely hypnotic effect…If you read any travel book this year—or indeed the next forty years—this should be it.
— Rory Maclean, The Guardian (UK)
Bouvier wrote only a handful of books, but this relatively small production has attained classic status in Europe…His prose is at once musical and remarkably factual, while the odd detail always seems captured with the deftness of a haiku poet. His gift for summing up significant experiences often rivals Thoreau’s.
— Paths to Contemporary French Literature
It is difficult to isolate the best moments of [The Way of the World]. Bouvier is a colourist and a miniaturist of the highest order.
— Le Monde
- Format: Paperback
- Publication Date: October 27, 2009
- Pages: 336
- ISBN: 9781590173220
- Series: NYRB Classics