Sunday, January 02, 2011

George Jonas on Pigeon Wars

Belles-lettres is any writing whose primary aim is to amaze or amuse rather than inform. Most books in the genre deliver on the second half of their promise more reliably than the first. It’s fairly rare, indeed, for a book of belles-lettres to inform, but it’s frequent for the lettres to be anything but belles. The Canadian travel writer/poet Marius Kociejowski’s The Pigeon Wars of Damascus, published this year by Biblioasis, fulfills its promise to amuse and amaze, but breaks with the belles-lettres tradition of failing to inform. In this Kociejowski reminds me of the erudite, brittle English travel writer of the 1930s, Robert Byron, whose Road To Oxiana and First Russia, Then Tibet, remain classics of the genre. Kociejowski is totally different from Byron in style, background, aesthetic interest and (probably) politics, but similar in offering information coupled with fine writing.
George Jonas, columnist

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