REVIEW – Michael Jacobs, An Odyssey Through The Andes (Edinburgh Book Festival)

Edinburgh Book Festival
Friday 27th August

Michael Jacobs is the author of several travel books including Factory of Light: Tales from my Andalucian Village. In his new book, ‘Andes’, Jacobs discusses his most recent journey to a part of the world which has fascinated explorers and travel writers for centuries, in a session introduced by Rosemary Burnett.
We learn that Jacobs studied art history at the Courtauld Institute in London and that he has been passionate about Spain and South America for most of his life: his grandfather went to work in Bolivia and Chile, and in his fifties, Jacobs decides to head to South America to trace his grandfather’s footsteps.
With an interesting set of photos from the trip, and Jacob’s obvious passion and affection for his personal journey, the audience is enthralled. We hear about the vastness of the Andes range (around 5,500 miles long) and the climactic extremes of countries such as Chile. Jacobs also entertains us with anecdotes about the characters he has met on his travels, as well as his references to charismatic South American revolutionaries, such as 19th Century Simon Bolivar: we learn of Bolivar’s battles and even about his dog.
When asked by an audience member about politics and changes in South America, Jacobs observes that the countries he visited seem to be constantly changing, with the need to be constantly affirming their identity – this is illustrated by several examples in the book. The Andes trip took the author six months and was timed so that he would be in Tierra Del Fuego in the winter, which he describes as “cold, bleak and desolate.” A highlight of the trip is meeting up with friend and fellow author Chris Stuart (author of Driving Over Lemons), and their chance sighting of a flock of condors take to the sky.
Jacob’s passion and enthusiasm for his subject infects the audience to such a degree that by the end, several are heard declaring their intentions to organise trips to various parts of South America: an inspiring session indeed.

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