Contemporary Travel Writing and Sara Suleri's Meatless Days

Yishane Lee '91 (English 137, 1990)

Sara Suleri's Meatless Days has a strong kinship with the works of twentieth-century travel writers. such as John McPhee, Bruce Chatwin, and Jonathan Raban. They too mesh private histories with an outside entity: in their cases it is the places to which they have travelled. The foreign locale-- or at least the geographic landscape which may or may not actually be foreign per se, as in Raban's exploration of his home country England -- becomes both the background and the catalyst for elements in each author's own personal life. McPhee plows the depths of his own background just as crofters plow his ancestor's land of Colonsay; Chatwin explores his own status as an exile just as he explores Patagonia and the exiles it holds and has held throughout its history; Raban circles England just as he circles but does not circumvent his past, pausing to land and reflect both on England's islands as well as on painful episodes of his childhood. Perhaps D. H. Lawrence alone of the travel writers does not excavate the depths of his own history as do the other writers; writing more than half a century before the others, Italy instead becomes the impetus for Lawrence to propose his philosophies, discursive and arcane. To some extent Suleri's novel examines Pakistan just as these travel writers look at the places they travelled to: she reflects back from her standpoint of living in the United States since 1976 on a country at once foreign and familiar, interlocking texts of her country with her family.

Main Screen Pakistan Sara Suleri Meatless Days