Camberwell Press meet every Monday to discuss specific discussion topics. These topics are raised by one member of the Press to be discussed over breakfast at Camberwell College of Arts. A more recent discussion was on the television programme The Wild Places Of Essex. In the programme there is a discussion about the ‘undiscovered country’ and Camberwell Press challenged me to write a small editorial on this subject for its website.
The Undiscovered Country
The origin of the term, the ‘undiscovered country’ is, of course, from Hamlet and one of the most famous speeches that Shakespeare ever wrote. It references the other, darker world and our transient state of life on this ‘mortal coil’ and within the play; this starts with a request from a ghost for vengeance.
However, if we expand the meaning of the ‘undiscovered country’, it could also mean the ignored, the forgotten and the myriad countries of our imagination. The countries themselves can be vast and expansive, like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia or tiny, fragmentary, even hidden such as the worlds articulated in Orhan Pamuk’s book, My Name is Red.
For me, my childhood was filled with maps and atlases. In a family that didn’t have a lot of money, we never went on holiday. These battered texts and folded time-travelling gems of the imagination fueled my voyages into these unknown mysterious worlds.
My real passions were for islands; an old tattered, tobacco scented copy of Treasure Island that I borrowed from Scarborough’s rather splendid public library ignited my love for all things island. It spirited me to read more and it was Nemo’s underwater adventures and the blank spaces described by Conrad that really triggered my imagination, helping me to develop my capacity for travel to ‘undiscovered countr[ies]’ without ever actually leaving my home. Even now you can find me, quite content, sitting in my little library at home, just daydreaming about these places with a large contented grin, just like Alice’s Cheshire Cat…
So have a go, try travelling without leaving.
Nick Gorse