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Steven Lovatt

An Open Door: New Travel Writing for a Precarious Century

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Edited by Steven Lovatt.


"An Open Door amply achieves what it sets out to do. It is entertaining and thought provoking, and deserves to be widely read." John Barnie, Gwales ( A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Books Council of Wales)

"All the contributions are very well written, variously capturing the pace of train travel, the extraordinary resilience of yew trees, and the grounding effect of gravel for a wheelchair traveller." Ian Tattum, Pilgrim House

"The travel writings of the late Jan Morris are touted ... as a model of sorts for a specifically Welsh iteration of that literary subgenre. For the most part, these 11 writers succeed in that aim, if we take ‘Jan Morris-esque’ to mean thoughtful, passionate and sensitive to both the similarities and differences of non-domestic cultures." Noel Gardner, Buzz Magazine

"Steven Lovatt has also cleverly set out to change some perspectives on Wales: replacing the notion of Wales being a place written about, ‘primarily as a sort of dream theatre for English aesthetes and capitalists’ by inviting Welsh and Wales based authors to write about their journeys within the country’s borders and beyond. And, my, how they have risen to the challenge, offering stories which are often highly personal, telling and superbly well written..." Jon Gower, Nation.Cymru

"All of these essays have something to offer. Some remind us how people have travelled whether they like it or not, as slaves, migrants, refugees or divided families... this is travel writing with a new sensibility for a new age. These feel like authors who are interested in going deep, rather than far; in staying with the story for longer, with patience, in intimate, layered detail." Gareth Jones, Planet


The history of Wales as a destination and confection of English Romantic writers is well known, but this book reverses the process, turning a Welsh gaze on the rest of the world.

This shift is timely: the severing of Britain from the European Union asks questions of Wales about its relationship to its own past, to the British state, to Europe and beyond, while the present political, public health and environmental crises mean that travel writing can and should never again be the comfortably escapist genre that it was. Our modern anxieties over identity are registered here in writing that questions in a personal, visceral way the meaning of belonging and homecoming, and reflects a search for stability and solace as much as a desire for adventure. Here are lyrical stories refracted through kaleidoscopes of family and world history, alongside accounts of forced displacement and the tenacious love that exists between people and places. Yet these pieces also show the enduring value and joy of travel itself. As Eluned Gramich expresses it ‘It’s one of the pleasures of travel to submit yourself to other people, let yourself be guided and taught’.

Taken together, the stories of An Open Door extend Jan Morris’ legacy into a turbulent present and even more uncertain future. Whether seen from Llŷn or the Somali desert, we still take turns to look out at the same stars, and it might be this recognition, above all, that encourages us to hold the door open for as long as we can.

Writers featured:
Eluned Gramich / Grace Quantock / Faisal Ali / Sophie Buchaillard / Giancarlo Gemin / Siân Melangell Dafydd / Mary-Ann Constantine / Kandace Siobhan Walker / Neil Gower / Julie Brominicks / Electra Rhodes.


Steven Lovatt is the author of Birdsong in a Time of Silence (Particular Books, 2021), and over the last decade his critical articles on Welsh literature, particularly Dorothy Edwards and Margiad Evans, have been published in New Welsh Review, Planet, Critical Survey, the AWWE Yearbook and the Literary Encyclopaedia. He reviews poetry for The Friday Poem, teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Bristol, and copy-edits books on ethnography and philosophy from his home in Swansea.