As a travel journalist, I am often asked what is my favourite book about travel. I toyed with The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, a sparse but evocative account of his visit to the Pamplona bull run, published in 1925. Or something by Bruce Chatwin, or even Kerouac's brilliant On The Road.
But I am going to go with The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway's 1952 novella written and set in Cuba. Cuba is one of my favourite places to visit, and I have become good friends with many who live there. It is an outstanding and moving metaphor for humankind's dignity in the face of the insuperable might of Nature.
I adore the Cuban people and have many friends who live there with whom I speak daily; and I visit regularly. The Cubans defy classification; they are stoic, they are good-humoured, they are vivacious, quarrelsome and hugely hospitable; they defy bullying by the US, they are patriotic, they drink, fight and are often highly sexed.
They are like children who are might be a handful but one cannot resist and whom you deeply love in spite of – or, perhaps, because of – any faults. This book gives an ineffable insight into the character of people of Cuba.
As the News of the World strapline used to have it: "All Human Life Is Here."
(This post is dedicated to Abuelo, Yusnaidy, Raulitín, Brian and the many people I know and love in Cuba; I will be over as soon as international travel starts up once again...)