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A Whimsical Journey Through India

“A Whimsical Journey Through India” by Harry Matthews is a captivating travel verse narrative that takes readers on an exploratory adventure through India. Matthews, an easy-going modern-day explorer, ventures into the heart of India with a blend of irony and a keen eye for the unusual. His journey is not just about the places he visits but also about the vibrant lives of the people he encounters and the rich tapestry of experiences that India offers.

The book offers a fresh perspective on the classic rite of passage, beginning with a mystical invocation and spanning a journey filled with zest and openness to the diverse cultural milieu of India. The narrative transcends mere observation, offering insights into the very essence of Indian life and Matthews’ deep engagement with its people.

Ruth Bidgood, the late Anglo-Welsh poet, praised the book for providing explanations where necessary, suggesting that Matthews does not shy away from the complexities of his experiences, but rather seeks to elucidate and inform the reader. Simon Calder, a travel journalist, compliments the book for its beautiful illustrations, there are 75 throughout, which enriches the storytelling with visual splendour.

Matthews is noted for his versatility as a writer, having published poetry prior to this verse travelogue. His journey to India, taken before his university finals and during the monsoon season, showcases his adventurous spirit and ability to embrace the unexpected.

The cover of the book features vibrant artwork, is indicative of the colourful and whimsical nature of both the journey and the writing style. The peacock, a symbol of grace and beauty, may hint at the richness of the narrative and the depth of exploration into India’s cultural heritage.

“A Whimsical Journey Through India” is a travelogue in verse that captures the essence of India through the eyes of the narrator, Harry Matthews. The manuscript is structured as a series of chapters, each focusing on different regions and experiences in India. It opens with evocative verses describing the scene in Darjeeling by the third highest mountain in the world, setting the tone for a journey that’s as much about introspection as it is about the exploration of a country​​.

As the journey unfolds, we’re taken to Udaipur, where art and history meet in a miniature school and a tale of an unconventional artist in Amsterdam is recounted, highlighting the contrasts and the rich tapestry of experiences that India has to offer. In Jaisalmer, the narrative confronts the history of Partition and the raw, elemental forces of nature​.

The tranquillity and heritage of Rohet Garh are explored, offering a peaceful respite and a chance for reflection the vibrant plumage of Rohet’s peacocks is used as a segue into discussions on Darwin’s theories, blending the natural world with intellectual musings​.

The travel poetry closes with a personal reflection on the author’s journey, both literal and metaphorical. The narrator delves into his family’s history, his motivations for travelling, and the transformative impact of India on his life. The narrative is suffused with cultural insights, personal growth, and a deep appreciation for the spirit of India.

Matthews’s writing is rich with description, capturing the sensory experiences of India, from the chai canteens perched precariously on mountain sides to the serenity of the ascetics in their orange robes​​. The narrative is also not shy of acknowledging the challenges and oddities encountered along the way, such as the surreal experience with the Sherpas in Shimla​.

“A Whimsical Journey Through India” is both a personal journey and a cultural exploration, written with an eye for detail and a heart open to the myriad experiences of life in India. It weaves together the external landscapes with the internal voyage of the author, offering a nuanced perspective that goes beyond the typical travel narrative, not least it being in verse. Matthews manages to capture the soul of India, with its contrasts, beauty, and complexities, while also charting his own inner transformation.

A Whimsical Journey Through India

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harry Matthews; First Printing (1 July 2021).
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 410 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1916871968
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1916871960
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 15.24 x 2.13 x 22.86 cm

Harry Matthews

un poète et peintre

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