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'Last of the great traveller-adventurer-writers' (on the death of Wilfred Thesiger)

1 September 2003

'This maverick species is dying out... But more than just an era of exploration has ended. These adventurers, who travelled and wrote from Victorian times to the mid-20th century, among them Richard Burton, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and Thesiger himself, created a powerful body of work, rendering strange, rare, lost worlds on the edge of being destroyed by Western civilisation...

A literary genre is dying with those titans - and perhaps that is something of a relief, because the fresh gleaming gold that they spun from their extraordinary lives has long since been transformed, through imitation, into the base metal of most modern travel writing...

The real problem is that travel writing became a profession. Few of the great travel writers were professionals. Thesiger and his peers were brilliant amateurs, and their example endures. The best travel-writing nowadays is usually by an aid-worker or a priest or a travelling doctor...'

Simon Sebag Montefiore in the Sunday Telegraph