Planet 224

Rex Harley reviews
1519: A Journey to the End of Time
by John Harrison

Rex Harley reviews 1519: A Journey to the End of Time

Parthian, £10.99

What would most of us choose to do in the wake of extreme therapy for advanced throat cancer, especially if we were twenty pounds lighter than when the treatment had begun, and found swallowing difficult and eating a logistical nightmare? John Harrison’s choice was to spend four months travelling across Mexico, alone and weighed down by a heavy backpack. As a warm-up he visited Spain – Extremadura in the still-blazing late summer – in order to get the flavour of the man in whose footsteps he would be travelling: conquistador Hernán Cortés. Quite apart from the physical challenge he was setting himself, what about the loneliness of the task and his obvious vulnerability? Modesto, one of the men he meets on his journey, asks him incredulously: ‘You have had cancer and you are travelling alone?’ His reply? ‘I would rather something happened here, doing what I love, than hide from life.’

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