studies in travel writing

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Maitland, Sara, A Book of Silence (London: Granta, 2009).



For about the last 10 years Sara Maitland has been trying to understand more about silence: what it might mean in 21st century; what effects it has on people; how it has been used and understood in the past; why we are so frightened of it; and why she has come to love it so much.

Her new book is an account of that adventure, a sort of mixture of personal journey and cultural history, both deeply personal and intellectually exciting. In the course of researching and writing the book Maitland spent silent time in silent places – on Skye in the Hebrides; in the Sinai Desert; in forests and mountains; in a flotation tank; in monasteries and libraries. She was trying to match her personal experiences to those of other people – from fairy stories to single-handed sailors, from hermits and romantic poets to prisoners and castaways, from reading and writing to mountaineering and polar exploration, from mythology to psychoanalysis.

For Sara Maitland, a practising Roman Catholic, silence has a profound religious dimension, which is also examined and discussed. This journey into silence has held surprises and setbacks, but mainly a deepening sense of happiness. In the end Maitland built a little house on an isolated moor in Galloway, designed for solitary and silent living.


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Studies in Travel Writing (journal)
Centre for Travel Writing Studies (Nottingham Trent University)

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