Magazine article Geographical

The Desert: Lands of Lost Borders

Magazine article Geographical

The Desert: Lands of Lost Borders

Article excerpt

THE DESERT: Lands of Lost Borders

by Michael Welland, Reaktion Books, 25 [pounds sterling] (hardback)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Paul Bowles dubbed it 'the baptism of solitude'--the sensation that the desert provokes; a source of well-being for the soul. That Michael Welland has fallen under the same spell is in little doubt, and in this expansive work, whose cultural references range from the classical to the Mad Max reboot, his love of these empty regions is palpable and highly infectious.

Still relatively unexplored, most deserts were, not so long ago, blank white unmapped spaces. At the beginning of World War II, maps of the North African desert showed only the occasional dotted line marking 'the approximate route of camels'.

But they do have long memories--seventy years after he carried out manoeuvres there, General Patton's tank tracks can still be seen in the Mojave Desert--and they can change their mood in an instant: the possibility of drowning in the Sahara, Welland notes, is 'paradoxical, absurd, but . …

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