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Personal Landscapes

Arts & Culture Podcasts

Personal Landscapes: Conversations on Books About Place

Personal Landscapes: Conversations on Books About Place




Personal Landscapes: Conversations on Books About Place






Steve Kilbey: writing, lyrics & songs about place

Steve Kilbey is the singer and lyricist of legendary Australian rock band The Church. He's made dozens of albums, and written several volumes of poetry and a memoir called Something Quite Peculiar. He was also the single biggest influence on my own development as a writer. We discuss lyric writing, songs about place, the disillusionment of success, and how music can recall our most intense experiences with vividness and immediacy.


Gordon Peake: Insider stories from the world of foreign aid

Gordon Peake’s work as an international development consultant has led him to the world’s forgotten corners, places once besieged by anthropologists and now overrun by Western aid workers. He's written books on Timor-Leste and Bougainville, and the inside stories he shares about the big money world of development projects will surprise you and make you laugh.


Edith Durham: The traveler who became Albania’s mountain queen

When I hiked through the Accursed Mountains last June, I met older Albanians who still referred to Edith Durham as their “mountain queen”. Her books provide a rare first-hand look at a turbulent and seldom traveled corner of Europe during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Durham's biographer, Marcus Tanner, joined me to discuss her travels, her relief work in the Balkans, and her role in helping create an independent Albania.


David Thompson and the mapping of Canada

David Thompson travelled some 90,000 kilometres across North America as a fur trader and surveyor, mapping one-fifth of the continent. His work was so accurate it remained the basis of all maps of the west for almost a century. And yet, he died in obscurity, his remarkable achievements largely forgotten. His biographer D'Arcy Jenish joins me to talk about this remarkable man’s life and work, and his role in creating the Canada we know today.


Rebecca Lowe: Cycling through the Middle East’s fractured mosaic

In 2015, Rebecca Lowe set out on a year long cycling trip from London to Tehran, a journey that revealed a splintered mosaic of cultures, countries and languages, each with their own unique traditions. We talked about the Arab Spring, the promise of Sudan, and the stark cultural divides within cosmopolitan Iran.


Martha Gellhorn: with biographer Caroline Moorehead

Martha Gellhorn wanted to be known as a novelist. Instead, she’s remembered as one of the 20th century’s greatest war correspondents. She wrote about what war does to ordinary people, and the despair of those who have lost everything. Biographer Caroline Moorehead joins me to talk about this remarkable woman.


Guy Kennaway: Life in a Jamaican village

One People is a comic novel but Cousins Cove is a real village, and the stories Guy Kennaway tells were gathered during his first ten years as an idle British expat. We spoke about Jamaican culture, the legacy of slavery, and why he’s a passionate advocate for Patwa, the national language.


Sophie Haydock: Egon Schiele and fin de siècle Vienna

Turn-of-the-century Vienna was a cultural crucible where the air seethed with repressed desire. No artist captured this more vividly than Egon Schiele. Sophie Haydock imagines herself into his world in her debut novel The Flames.


Carole Angier: The strange world of W.G. Sebald

W.G. Sebald has been described as “a writer of almost unclassifiable originality”. He wrote about the plight of emigrants, and in particular, emigrants from the Holocaust. His obsessions included survivor’s guilt, the nature of decline and fall, loss and decay, and the downward plunge of nature and history. I discussed Sebald's life and work with his biographer Carole Angier.


David Eimer: Cultural survival in China’s borderlands

David Eimer is the author of the critically acclaimed The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China. We spoke about that country's tumultuous border regions, and how different ethnic minorities have tried to keep their culture alive beneath the Han yoke.


Dervla Murphy: Reflections on a lifetime of travel

Dervla Murphy has been described as a ‘travel legend’ and ‘the first lady of Irish cycling’. For five decades she’s travelled the world in a series of truly remarkable journeys, mostly alone and mostly on foot. I had the great fortune to speak with her a week after her 90th birthday. We talked about the loss of traditional cultures, travel in the pre-internet age, and the general state of the world.


Nigel Barley: The Innocent Anthropologist

Nigel Barley wrote one of the funniest travel books I've ever read, and it nearly got him kicked out of his academic discipline. We spoke about the grim reality of fieldwork, his odd attraction for monkeys, and why fiction tells us more than anthropology about what it means to be human.


Jeremy Seal: Modern Turkey and the 1960 coup

Jeremy Seal is the author of six books, including A Fez of the Heart. We spoke about the infinite courtesies of Turkish hospitality, cultural divides, and the legacy of the 1960 military coup.


John Gimlette: Madagascar, and ‘walking the dead’

John Gimlette is the author of five books, including The Gardens of Mars. We spoke about Madagascar, ‘walking the dead’, and writing about places on the margin of the map.


Sara Wheeler: Russia, Antarctica and how we shape stories

Sara Wheeler is the author of 10 books, including Mud and Stars. We spoke about her travels in Russia, living as writer-in-residence on an Antarctic research base, and the reciprocal relationship between story and memory.


Jerry Kobalenko: Searching for ghosts on Ellesmere Island

Jerry Kobalenko is one of Canada’s most experienced High Arctic travelers, and the author of The Horizontal Everest and Arctic Eden. We spoke about the lure of Ellesmere, and searching for the traces of historic travelers.


Lawrence Millman: the Arctic, technology and saving stories

Lawrence Millman is the author of 18 books, and a master of northern writing. We talked about his book Last Places, eating bird shit in Iceland, and his efforts to preserve stories before they fade away.


Rory Maclean: Berlin, Bowie and the new Cold War

Rory Maclean is the author of 15 books, including Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries. We talk about Berlin, making a film with David Bowie, the state of Europe, and how a glimpse of the Berlin Wall formed a lasting influence on his books.


Anthropology-lite with Barnaby Rogerson of Eland books

Eland has been resurrecting lost travel classics and keeping them in print for more than 35 years. I talk with publisher Barnaby Rogerson about anthropology-lite, why the post-war period was a golden age for British travel writing, and why some of the 20th century’s most exciting writers were autodidacts.


Introducing... Personal Landscapes

The novelist and island writer Lawrence Durrell believed that everyone has a personal landscape, a landscape that resonates with them on some deep tuning fork level, where you feel most at home, and where you think your deepest thoughts. I’ve spent more than 20 years exploring such places as a traveler, and as a writer of magazine features and books. I’m going to talk to the people who write those books and publish those books. Experts on different geographical and cultural regions, and on...