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Waugh on travel and terror

Friday, 24 March, 2017

“I See Nothing But Boredom… Everywhere” was the ominous title of a piece by Evelyn Waugh that appeared in the Daily Mail on 28 December 1959. The future of travel was the great man’s theme. Like all newspaper prophesy, it was ignored as soon as it was read, and because Waugh was extremely contrary, his predictions were dismissed as the bitter reproaches of an ageing man (he died in 1966). A rereading, however, shows that he had imagined our future with incredible prescience and was rightly appalled by the vista.

He said: “One went abroad to observe other ways of living, to eat unfamiliar foods and see strange buildings,” but in the future, he foretold, the world would be divided, on the one hand, into “zones of insecurity” dominated by terrorism and, on the other, vulgar tourist traps consisting of “chain hotels, hygienic, costly, and second rate,” to which people would be transported by the uniform jet. Well, we’ve got the terror now, we’ve all stayed in ghastly, modern hotels and air travel began its journey towards industrial conformity and security nightmare some while ago.

Today’s increasingly uncomfortable, stressful, fearful flying experience stands in remarkable contrast to what was once charming and civilized. On a flight in the 1930s, the great traveller and writer Paul Bowles observed: “I had my own cabin with a bed in it, and under sheet and blankets I slept during most of the flight.”

What to do about our dystopia? Stop travelling altogether is one option. Preferable, though, is to document and publish the horrors in the hope that the travel business can be brought to its senses and the good fight against terror will be won.


Filed in: Terror, Travel • Tags: , ,

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  1. Evelyn Waugh, Travel Writer | The Evelyn Waugh Society | Friday, 24 March, 2017