We’ve talked a fair bit on this blog about how bad the majority of travel writing is. So it’s a relief and a delight to find a writer whose work is strong, insightful, and fresh, as Steve did in his recent post on Travel Intelligence.
Yesterday, while slogging through my usual pile of magazines, I found one for myself. This month’s The Walrus features one of the most striking, beautiful, and well-written travel essays I’ve come across in a very long time. Deborah Kirshner is a writer and concert violinist who traveled to the Rwandan capital Kigali on the heels of a British Columbian music professor for her essay “A Pianist in Rwanda.”
She’s the kind of writer whose work grabs you by the throat and says, “Stop. Wait. Read. Pay attention.” And I did, right from the first paragraphs, where lines like these immediately clench your imagination: “Scores of dwellings pop out like blisters from the belly of the wide central valley and creep onto the sides of the hill. … From the safety of some of the ridges that sweep across the city, you can stand and watch the exhausted, pornographic industry of poverty.” But the beauty and sharpness of Kirshner’s language only serve as a fitting home for her subject: Rwanda, its recovery, its people and particularly its artists, and the impact it has had on one musician’s feeling of purpose in her own profession.