I was so pleased to learn from Perry Middlemiss’s blog, Matilda, that Tony Kevin’s book, Walking the Camino, a Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago has been awarded the 2008 ACT Book of the Year Award. I discovered it at the 2008 Writers at the Convent where Kevin, a retired diplomat, chatted amiably about his book and ran his photos as a slide show. (There aren’t any photos in the book because he didn’t know at the time that for book production purposes, he should have used a camera that took higher resolution pictures.)
I really enjoyed it, and that may seem odd, given that – at first glance – it’s a recount of a religious pilgrimage through Spain, but it really resonated with me. Kevin explains that he was feeling a profound sense of alienation within his own country. He had previously written the story of SIEV-X, whose 300-odd passengers had drowned off the coast of Australia in disquieting circumstances. He was bothered by Australia’s acquiescence in renditions; Guantanamo Bay; the Tampa incident; the war in Iraq; and the fear of terrorism provoking us into getting involved in questionable foreign policy decisions. Kevin felt the need to get away, to take time out for reflective thinking. He used the time to think about a quieter life, with fewer possessions and a sustainable future. He came back with an undiminished sense of anxiety about the enormity of global problems, but with renewed optimism.
Although his faith sustained him along the way, this cathartic journey is recounted with a light touch. The Camino is one of two ancient trails, tramped even today by thousands of pilgrims who make their way from Granada in the southeast to Santiago Cathedral in the northwest. Eight weeks on the road transformed an overweight, unfit self-doubter in his sixties into a trim, healthy and more self-confident man. Like the other pilgrims he travelled with the bare essentials: a staff, a rucksack, a journal and a camera, and he stayed in simple accommodation designed for the pilgrims en route. Sometimes he walked in company and at other times alone, reflecting on his life and the environment in which he found himself. I found myself liking him enormously, and I hope he writes more. His award is well deserved.
Great cover design too!
I finished reading and journalled this book on 10.3.2008.
Author: Tony Kevin
Title: Walking the Camino
Publisher: Scribe Publications
Source: Personal copy, purchased at the Writers at the Convent Festival
Fishpond: Walking the Camino: A Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago