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British travel writer & novelist (1942- )

One of the oddest features of western Christianized culture is its ready acceptance of the myth of the stable family and the happy marriage. We have been taught to accept the myth not as an heroic ideal, something good, brave, and nearly impossible to fulfil, but as the very fibre of normal life. Given most families and most marriages, the belief seems admirable but foolhardy.

JONATHAN RABAN, For Love and Money

In an underdeveloped country don't drink the water. In a developed country don't breathe the air.

JONATHAN RABAN, Weekly World News, Jul. 28, 1992

Living in cities is an art, and we need the vocabulary of art, of style, to describe the peculiar relationship between man and material that exists in the continual creative play of urban living. The city as we imagine it, then, soft city of illusion, myth, aspiration, and nightmare, is as real, maybe more real, than the hard city one can locate on maps in statistics, in monographs on urban sociology and demography and architecture.


Books admitted me to their world open-handedly, as people for their most part, did not. The life I lived in books was one of ease and freedom, worldly wisdom, glitter, dash and style.

JONATHAN RABAN, For Love and Money

When traveling, I usually keep a notebook: when home at my desk, the notebook serves mainly to remind me how little I saw at the time, or rather how I was noticing the wrong things. But the notes do spur memories, and it's the memories I trust. The wine stain on the page may tell me more than the words there, which usually strike me as hopelessly inadequate.

JONATHAN RABAN, Loggernaut reading series interview, spring 2006

It always seems to me odd to call a place a wilderness when every wilderness area in the US bristles with rules and regulations as to how you can behave, what you’re allowed to do, and is patrolled by armed rangers enforcing the small print. They’re parks, of course, not wildernesses at all.

JONATHAN RABAN, interview, Granta Magazine, Jul. 15, 2008

Insofar as I think about postmodernism at all, and it doesn't exactly keep me awake at nights, I think of it as something that happens to one, not a style one affects. We're postmoderns because we're not modernists. The modernist writers—Pound, Eliot, Joyce, Stevens, Yeats, Woolf, Williams—spoke with a kind of vatic authority: they were really the last of the Romantics, for whom authorship itself was like being a solitary prophet in the wasteland.

JONATHAN RABAN, Loggernaut reading series interview, spring 2006

Critics? Don't talk to me of critics! You think some jackanapes journalist, his soul eaten away by the maggots of jealousy and failure, has anything worthwhile to say of art? I don't.

JONATHAN RABAN, attributed, Looking Together: Writers on Art (Brown/Knecht, 2009)

I'd adore it if bookstores would simply go over to alphabetical listings so that sociologists would rub shoulders with novelists, historians with poets, etcetera. It was in the twentieth century that the profession of authorship became suddenly specialized. The division of labour in the Industrial Revolution somehow entailed a corresponding division of academic and literary labour as well. People became short-story writers or novelists or playwrights (or 'radio playwrights' or 'television playwrights') with as hard a line between these increasingly narrow and artificial genres as that between, say, ear-nose-and-throat men and heart or bowel specialists.

JONATHAN RABAN, interview, Granta Magazine, Jul. 15, 2008

We need – more urgently than architectural utopias, ingenious traffic disposal systems, or ecological programmes – to comprehend the nature of citizenship, to make serious imaginative assessment of that special relationship between the self and the city; its unique plasticity, its privacy and freedom.


The [travel] writer, looking back at the journey from a distance of a year or two (or three), is a different character from the hapless character who undertook the trip: wise after the event, with the leisure to tease out meanings from the experience that the distracted traveler never had, and often impatient with his alter ego's blinkered and unsatisfactory version of things.

JONATHAN RABAN, Loggernaut reading series interview, spring 2006


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