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Wanderlust: A History of Walking


For her book, the writer Rebecca Solnit picked an endless subject we all know well: walking. She guides us through this activity’s history both in physical and mental terms.

Wanderlust: A History of Walking is the most recent book by American author and winner of the Guggenheim’s National Critic’s Circle, Rebecca Solnit. Her book explores the act of walking, something that is impossible to encompass, but since the subject has no end, and neither does its practice, we are all partakers. Solnit clarifies that what she presents in the book is a story, but not the story of this activity. With her book she guides us down a series of paths that cross physical territories and those of the mind; an intertwining of planes that evokes precisely what happens when set out for a stroll.

Solnit mentions that ‘Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.’

Her history is essentially a cultural perspective where modern thinkers like Walter Benjamin, Baudelaire, Kierkegaard and Longfellow, comprise its core. She reflects on walking as an optional activity, since until recently it was necessary to walk in order to get from one point to the next, and how it is narrowly related to the English literature of the eighteenth century and to gardens. She analyses the act of wandering as a philosophical and bodily occupation, but, above all else, Solnit conceives walking as the manner we have chosen to reclaim the world.

Her divergent narrative styles —which comes and goes from her own memories of walking and others’ walks, reflects on the very act of walking—insinuating that when we read her book we experiencing other people’s strolls. We are participating in the peripatetic activity that she and her ghosts have summoned, and, even if she does diverge at times (as it happens while we walk also), we always return to our feet, at the book’s pace.

Book cover of Wanderlust: A History of Walking

The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to.

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