by David G Brown
I have often wondered why I never had the courage to back pack around the world. This is quite apart from family responsibilities. After reading ‘Hell Holes of the World’ I have my answer. I could not bear to go for days without a shower, sleep in hovels and not know if I had a bed for the night.
What I particularly liked about this book was that it took me to the places I would never dare visit and allowed me to at least have a peek, to feel the grime, to smell the polluted air and to meet the people. That was the magic. I met people I would never encounter in real life.
David takes us to meet them through his vivid description and storytelling. A lot of it is grim but there are moments of incredible beauty and they explain why David went to such lengths to visit these isolated and often dangerous places.
We quickly realise that these places have not been given a make-over for the tourist. They are raw, war torn or neglected.
What I found most interesting was not so much the physical journey, which was fascinating and arduous, but rather David’s journey as a human being.
He began his story on a kibbutz in Israel where he worked as a volunteer. The international and local community partied through the night and worked during the day. Palestine was just over the fence but no-one seemed to notice or care.
Twenty years later he visited the area and stood on Golan Heights looking at the kibbutz through the border and with a different perspective. He had travelled to almost 100 countries by that time and experienced life at its rawest and seen people at their most deprived. As we read his story we are reading an account of a young man’s transformation into an adult. This was never more pronounced than when he looked at his old kibbutz from the Golan Heights.
He wrote, ‘The wall between Lebanon and Israel felt as great as the wall between who I had become and who I once was.” (215)
That moment of looking back at the kibbutz, which he could never visit again, is also a metaphor for David’s life. He was always the observer never the observed. Where ever he went he had an escape, unlike the people whose lives he briefly touched. There was no place he could call home. He even felt he did not fit in New Zealand, the place of his birth. Although he did come to a kind of accommodation with his birth country it was still uneasy. The closest he got to finding the country where his spirit could rest was Israel.
But as I read through this book, crafted by a master storyteller, I realized I was following the trajectory of a man’s life from innocence to maturity. He knew the world we live in far more intimately than most of us will ever know it and that changed him. But we also are changed in a small way simply by sharing his journey.
‘Hell Holes of the World’ is a wonderful book and I would recommend it to anyone. David was a citizen of the world. He did not belong anywhere yet his curiosity led him to discover the human condition in a way that only those who lived in his ‘Hell Holes’ could.
CEO, Stylefit (formerly The Story Mint) http://www.thestorymint.com
Author: David G. Brown
Publisher: Archetype Book Agents
ISBN: 978 047341 782 6