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The road to Zagora by Richard Collins
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The road to Zagora (2015)

by Richard Collins

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Strange that no one else on LT has bought Richard Collins's gritty memoir of travelling with Parkinson's disease. The pre-publication announcement subtitled it as 'Travels with Mr Parkinson' and although implicit, that subtitle does not appear in the imprint data.

The announcement coincided with the diagnosis of a friend with Parkinson's disease, though we felt that this was the case at least a year before endless hospital visits finally confirmed the diagnosis. So a desire to know more about Mr Parkinson, but not just that, otherwise I'd have purchased a medical book or a 'How I cope...' book; I wanted a book that had more to offer than just the peregrinations of an illness, and in that Richard Collins succeeds, slowly drawing you in to his life from a variety of starting points both of place and chronology.

Sometimes he copes, sometimes not. His wife, Eden Flic, has a number of diary entries scattered through the text that adumbrate the glamour of travel and exotic destinations with a darkness that he fully acknowledges will imminently curtail his travelling and his life, with the possibility of considerable physical difficulty.

This is not a detailed travelogue with numerous cultural, geographical, historical, archeological apercus - you can get that from any number of other books. He's a good socialist and the book celebrates the colour and the life, the poverty and the conditions of ordinary people. His political points are implicit - he uses his eyes leaving the reader in no doubt of manifest inequalities.

Although many countries are covered he concentrates particularly on India and Nepal, and also South America, particularly Peru. He and Flic are clearly brave travellers, but it is their desire for raw experience, peppered with honesty about his life, the
mistakes and with considerable modesty the successes is what makes this an unflinching revelation of himself and their relationship. ( )
  peterbrown | Sep 20, 2015 |
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making that journey through wonderful consciousness, toward the end of consciousness

Edward Albee
no hay camino, se hace camino al andar (there is no road, you make the road as you go)

Antonio Machado
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'The road to Zagora' is dedicated to Flic, my favourite and best travelling companion, with a very big thank you for all that you have given and all that we have shared.
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Book description
As inveterate walkers Collins and his partner Flic decided to continue to travel ‘close to the land’ post diagnosis, leaving the tourist trails and visiting places of extremes: the Himalayas, rainforests, deserts. The difficulties of rough terrain, altitude, extremes of climate for a person with Collins’ condition are an ongoing strand of his narrative; occasionally they cannot be overcome and Collins is forced to consider the frailties of the human body in passages of moving contemplation.

The Road to Zagora also includes an element of memoir, as Parkinson’s Disease also causes
Collins to reflect on his life, and in particular on his relationship with Flic. There are moments of great charm as their relationship evolves, and also the drama of previous serious illnesses.

Yet any sentiment or self-pity is denied through Collins’s resolute and independentmindedness and the quality of writing. In the travel passages the readers experiences the sheer physicality of Collins’ expeditions, along with his novelist’s eye for telling local detail. In the sequences of memoir the writing is humane, compassionate and quite often comic.
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