Quondam: Travels in a once World
'Once in a while a travel book comes along that pushes at the boundaries of the genre', this is what we read on the inside sleeve of a new book by Cork based author John Devoy.
It is unusual for a self-published book to receive plaudits from the Irish Times, The Examiner, other local papers and indeed RTE’s Nationwide team plan to ‘air’ the story of the book toward end of October. ‘Quondam: Travels in a Once World’ was introduced by Dervla Murphy and formally launched in the new Art Centre, Skibbereen in Sept 2018. The previous June, it was accepted for a ‘pre-launch at Immrama, the Travel writers Festival in Dervla’s hometown of Lismore,. Since then and, reader by reader, it’s been causing a quite ripple of interest. Should there be surprise? Perhaps not.
When veterans such as Dervla Murphy and Ted Simon sing its praises, maybe a lover of a good book is on to a winner! Ted Simon himself, author of the iconic ‘Jupiters Travels’ wrote of it... ‘This is a traveller’s banquet of passion and hard-earned wisdom. I once wrote that all I could hope to do was to make a narrow track around the globe on my bike and extrapolate. John Devoy is The Extrapolator,’ Murphy thinks the writing is ‘...exceptional,’ and added that ‘...some books need photos, this one doesn’t.’ By all accounts, if one is to read the reviews on Goodreads, on Amazon and on Devoy’s own website, readers seem to wholeheartedly agree. One elder lady wrote, ‘This was the best book I’ve read all year. I’m 84. I don’t have much time, please hurry with the sequel!’ – if that isn’t pressure for an author! So, what is it all about? Quondam, (meaning ‘former’ or ‘a period of time that has passed,’) is the first installment of a planned trilogy.
The backstory is a mega two year solo bicycle journey from Cork to North Cape, Norway, to Cape Point, South Africa via Madagascar – 33 countries, 33,000 kms – beginning on April Fool’s day 1985. He rode part of that way with a Kilkenny man named Eamon Wallace, who was himself on his own mega bike trip, from Kilkenny through the Mid East to Pakistan, Tibet, China and on to ‘Oz’ then across the USA It is interesting to note that, in the years after their respective homecomings, both Wallace and Devoy began their own separate organic farms, in Callan and Clonakilty, west Cork, respectively. As Devoy said, ‘That says all you need to know about what a long solo trip in those days can do to one.” They are friends to this day. Obviously this was travel long before the advent of communication technology, yet we are forewarned by almost every person who has read it, that Quondam is far more than a ‘mere travel book.’ Comments such as ‘...I was absolutely blown away by this book.’ ‘...it’s a real real gem,‘ ‘...what a journey. ‘...the definition of a page turner,’ ‘...a masterpiece of travel writing!’ ‘...a beast of a book!’ etc.
These testimonials are there to be read, and all, in their different ways, tell us how the book, with its sometimes quirky humorous style, belies a serious philosophical underbelly, which perhaps is the one aspect which has captivated and given readers more than they bargained for. A few years after returning from that journey John Devoy resigned from his permanent job in the Clinical Biochemistry Department, at what is now the University Hospital Cork, and moved to Clonakilty, west Cork to begin an organic farm. There, with his wife Sara and their children, they ran the farm for the last twenty years. More recently, he was invited to give a talk on the trip by the Rosscarbery Historical Society and after an enthusiastic response, he was told in by uncertain terms, he just had to ‘...write the book’. As Ellie O Byrne, in the Examiner, said in her piece, ‘...it’s a two year story that took thirty years to tell.’
|Publication date||7 Feb 2019|