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Dervla Murphy & Sara Wheeler on women travel writers


Dervla Murphy and Sara Wheeler discuss the appeal of travel writing and the challenges facing women travel writers.

“A lady an explorer? A traveller in skirts? … Let them stay and mind the babies, or hem our ragged shirts.” So wrote a contributor to ‘Punch’ in 1893. Yet since then women have proved that travel writing is not – and should not be – a male preserve. Dervla Murphy’s first book, ‘Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle’, was published in 1965, and since then her travels have taken her to countries including Tibet, Nepal, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Peru. ‘A Month by the Sea’, published this month, charts a summer in Gaza. Sara Wheeler’s books include the international bestseller ‘Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica’. In the newly published ‘O My America’ she looks at the lives of six women who escaped various kinds of misery to go and live in the Deep South in the 19th century. In a conversation chaired by Joanna Kavenna, whose debut, ‘The Ice Museum’ (2005), was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize, they discuss why travel has proved the best way for them to explore their ideas; the appeal of a genre relatively free of convention and rules; and the particular challenges facing women travel writers.

Recorded on: April 24, 2013
Sponsored by: Kate Grimond