Rendering global connection tangible
Colin Ross is characterized as one of a new breed of travel writers that is less interested in romance and adventure than in bringing impressions of everyday life abroad back home to his readers.
In this review of Ross’s Australia travelogue Der unvollendete Kontinent (1930, not translated into English) for an Australian readership several causes are proposed for this new mode of travel writing. Most of them relate to increasing global connection: “The globe has shrunk too much, readers have become too critical, and last but not least, the destinies even of the remotest countries are today too closely knitted with our own.”
The aim of this new mode of travelogue writing is delivering information about a country’s current state by recounting the traveler’s impressions: “Life is a better teacher than books.” And this figure of the roaming reporter is seen as a way of rendering the concept of global connectedness more tangible and vivid. “And now, indeed, we are able to gauge the meaning of newspaper headlines that before were mere words and more or less abstract phrases to us.” All this perceptively conveys the way Ross actually presented himself: as a self-professed dilettante in academic matters rather than as an expert, someone who aims to study his destination from the ground up.1
The author is in agreement with some of Ross’s findings, though. They might be made out to be more flattering than Ross intended. For instance, the reviewer reports that “In Dr. Ross’s opinion we find here the social structure the Western World must assume sooner or later”, which conveniently skips Ross’s rather harsh diagnosis of the side effects of Australia’s welfare democracy. The Australian population, although living in material comfort, is in Ross’s opinion in the grip of cultural and spiritual inertia.2
Anonymous. The Incomplete Continent. Weekly Times: 1932 Mar 12; 26.
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30
1 See: Colin Ross. [Excerpt from] Die Reise zu sich selbst. In: Der Wille der Welt: eine Reise zu sich selbst. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1932; 7–8. See Library.
2 See: Colin Ross. Der Preis für “panem et circenses”. In: Der unvollendete Kontinent. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1930; 163–7. See Library.