Magazine article New Internationalist

[Passage to Juneau: A Sea & Its Meanings]

Magazine article New Internationalist

[Passage to Juneau: A Sea & Its Meanings]

Article excerpt

In his previous book, Badlands, Jonathan Raban's travels took him to the drylands of Montana in search of bankrupt sharecroppers and paranoid militiamen. His first love, though, is the sea -- a passion explored in Coasting and his underrated novel Foreign Land. Passage To Juneau finds him once more afloat, retracing the 1792 voyage of the Discovery under George Vancouver, up the Inner Passage from Puget Sound to Alaska.

Raban is much more than a mere travel writer and, though his book is rich with nautical and topographical details of the Pacific Northwest, his journey is a beautifully-structured narrative in which the personal and the political, the present and the past are intertwined, each illuminating the other. Thus he moves naturally from a reflection on the Discovery as a floating microcosm of the eighteenth-century English class system to a wonderful disquisition on the canoe-culture of the Northwest Indians and how their folk tales of malevolent underwater creatures underpinned their essentially aquatic society. …

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