Annette Kobak speaks with Carole Angier about her biography of Isabelle Eberhardt, her memoir of her father and his wartime experiences, and the important role of parallel travels in the structure of her books.
As a travel writer, Horatio Clare’s professional scepticism has been challenged by glimpses of what he calls ‘inexplicable truths’. A man in Mozambique who saw a mermaid, a Congolese witch who vouchsafed him protection from Ebola, a nightjar churring on a hillside in Wales — these, Clare argues, are ‘signs, wonders and mysteries’.
Travelling for biographical research can lead to all kinds of dead ends. But in her latest visit to South Africa, for a book on Doyle and Kipling’s role in the Anglo-Boer war, Sarah LeFanu found fresh inspiration – and a fresh connection with the long-departed dead – in a small, half-forgotten graveyard.
Tribal hostilities, polygamous jealousies and farming disasters are not the stuff of Annie Caulfield’s usual radio dramas. But working on a South Sudanese soap opera, in the tense aftermath of war, she finds a new affirmation of professional purpose.
Every so often a writer comes along and changes the rules of the game. In travel writing, it was Ryszard Kapuściński: his immersive approach and magical journalism, rich in anecdote and hearsay, married deep knowledge to a lightness of touch. To Rosemary Bailey he was a hero. But what does she make of his travel-writing heirs?