Travel book as memoir, memoir as novel, novel
as polemic: that was how Moritz Thomsen described The Saddest Pleasure. He threads
together a journey to and down the Amazon with a series of crystalline recollections
of the events that have shaped him: a privileged childhood presided over by a bullying
patriarch, combat missions in World War Two and a life-changing Peace Corps experience
in Ecuador, from which he never went back to the US.
Unflinchingly honest about
his family, his failures, his already broken health at the age of sixty-three
and the loss of the hopes he once had for himself, Thomsen is also sickened by the
corruption and rapacity of our societies, the inequality and the economic destitution.
What starts as an almost reluctant concatenation of memory and poignant, limpid
descriptions of Brazil, grows into a shattering romantic symphony on human misery
and life’s small but exquisite transcendent pleasures. He spares the reader nothing.
‘A man capable of breaking your heart in
a single sentence and making you laugh out loud in the next.’ — Tim Cahill
book that makes most other current examples...seem hopelessly shallow and insipid.’ — Richard Lipez, Washington Post
‘A travel book may be many things, and Moritz Thomsen’s
The Saddest Pleasure seems to be most of them — not just a report of a journey,
but a memoir, an autobiography, a confession, a foray into South American topography
and history, a travel narrative, with observations of books, music, and life in
general; in short, what the best travel books are, a summing up.’ — Paul Theroux