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The Custom of the Country
Edith Wharton, Linda Wagner-Martin
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Leo Tolstoy, Louise Maude, Alymer Maude

Abroad: British Literary Traveling between the Wars

Abroad: British Literary Traveling between the Wars - Paul Fussell Although Paul Fussell remarks (famously) in Abroad that “we are all tourists now, and there is no escape" (46), it is clear from his book that the quip is ironic and does not refer to the way he views himself. In fact, Fussell creates three categories of voyagers: the traveler, the tourist, and the anti-tourist. Like Theroux, Fussell similarly sees the traveler as one willing to undergo discomfort but also someone, as in Caren Kaplan’s trenchant summary of Fussell, who “can be characterized as a Western individual, usually male, ‘white,’ of independent means, an introspective observer, literate, acquainted with ideas of the arts and culture, and, above all, a humanist” (Kaplan 50). Additionally, Fussell creates another category. Not content with the term “tourist,” Fussell also develops the term, “anti-tourist.” While the tourist is obvious and always “moves toward the security of pure cliché “ (46), the anti-tourist is savvier. In what Mary Louise Pratt might term a “crescendo of arrogance” (a phrase she does use to describe Fussell’s writing in another context), Fussell describes the anti-tourist as a traveler-“wannabe”:

Perhaps the most popular way for the anti-tourist to demarcate himself from the tourists, because he can have a drink while doing it, is for him to lounge—cameraless—at a café table and with palpable contempt scrutinize the passing sheep through half-closed lids, making all movements very slowly …. Any conversation gambits favored by lonely tourists, like “Where are you from?” can be deflected by vagueness. Instead of answering Des Moines or Queens, you say, “I spend a lot of time abroad” or “That’s really hard to say.” If hard-pressed, you simply mutter, “Je ne parle pas Anglais,” look at your watch, and leave. (49)


Of particular interest here is Fussell’s point-of-view. While satirizing the “anti-tourists” for snubbing and dissociating themselves from the bourgeois tourists, Fussell looks down on both categories and distinguishes them from the more cultured, knowledgeable class of “travelers” that would, of course, include Fussell—however much he might assert that “we are all tourists now.”




from a previous publication