There is a telling moment in one of Colin Thubron’s early films. He is travelling with a BBC crew along the Silk Road in China when he professes that he is tired of filming and needs to be alone. He turns aside and enters the desert for a moment of meditation; a moment that is recorded by the film crew, who are presumably still beside him.
The tensions between Thubron’s natural tendency to solitude and the travel writer’s need to communicate and share experience are what give his books their strength. He is never garrulous and when he does reveal something about himself, the reader feels that these are confidences hard won.
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