The history of Wales as a destination and confection of English Romantic writers is well known, but this book reverses the process, turning a Welsh gaze on the rest of the world.
This shift is timely: the severing of Britain from the European Union asks questions of Wales about its relationship to its own past, to the British state, to Europe and beyond, while the present political, public health and environmental crises mean that travel writing can and should never again be the comfortably escapist genre that it was. Our modern anxieties over identity are registered here in writing that questions in a personal, visceral way the meaning of belonging and homecoming, and reflects a search for stability and solace as much as a desire for adventure. Here are lyrical stories refracted through kaleidoscopes of family and world history, alongside accounts of forced displacement and the tenacious love that exists between people and places. Yet these pieces also show the enduring value and joy of travel itself. As Eluned Gramich expresses it ‘It’s one of the pleasures of travel to submit yourself to other people, let yourself be guided and taught’.
Taken together, the stories of An Open Door extend Jan Morris’ legacy into a turbulent present and even more uncertain future. Whether seen from Llŷn or the Somali desert, we still take turns to look out at the same stars, and it might be this recognition, above all, that encourages us to hold the door open for as long as we can.