'Nicholas Murray unleashed his inner poet for his greatest nonfiction book, Crossings. An examination of borders of all kinds – cultural, political, linguistic – it is particularly poignant when he approaches liminal borders such as old age.' Martina Evans – The Irish Times
‘This impressive collection of short pieces is part travelogue and part meditation on other, metaphysical borders the biographer and poet Nicholas Murray has experienced.’ – The Tablet
Crossings is a book about borders. Though many of the borders it addresses are geographical, encountered on his travels, Nicholas Murray also considers less clearly defined, more abstract borders he has crossed or confronted – cultural, linguistic, social, class, religious, sexual. Whatever kind of border we encounter, they cause us both to think of how see ourselves as individual and as members of a variety of groups. Conversely they also cause us to think about how we consider others – and the ‘otherness’ which results from their being on a different side of a border. Borders are markers of identity and, consequently, formers of societies.
Divided into two unequal parts, Crossings places Murray in the wider world, and locates him in his home. In the longer first section he transports the reader to Spain and North Africa, Gibraltar, Turkey, partitioned Cyprus, the cross roads that is Trieste, Hong Kong and Australia, and takes a trip along the Danube through the contested lands of the Balkans.
Along the way Murray writes about Voltaire and Joyce, exile, translation, the North/South divide and the social minefield of speaking at Eton school. In the shorter second section Murray explores his home patch, which happens to be the border between Wales and England, known as the English (or are they the Welsh?) Marches, a relatively short commute from his other home in multicultural London. Drawing on his long experience living as a kind of outsider on this historic, but also more domestic, border provides a fascinating counterpoint to the people, customs and mores encountered in the first part of the book.