Alastair Bonnett


On his book Beyond the Map: Unruly Enclaves, Ghostly Places, Emerging Lands and Our Search for New Utopias

Cover Interview of February 20, 2019


There is a growing feeling that the replacement of unique and distinct places by generic blandscapes is severing us from something important. If only in a small way, I hope Beyond the Map contributes to this pushback. Both this book and its prequel, Unruly Places, have been widely translated, finding readers in Korea and China, as well as in Germany and Spain. As the tide of globalization and urban change sweeps the planet so too does a fascination with unique, intriguing, storied places. They have become redoubts of the imagination. We need these places, and the sooner planners, developers, authorities of all sorts, get that and stop shredding our landscapes and our memories, the better.

Another task I want to aid in Beyond the Map is the reinvention of exploration. Exploration is a rather tarnished concept because it conjures images of colonialism and one group of people pushing another out of the picture. But the desire to explore cannot be defined around one historical event or period. It is an innate human attribute and one of our species’ most glorious qualities. For me, exploration today means understanding that, despite the best efforts of Google Earth, our world is still full of the unexpected and uncharted. Such regions may be beneath the waves or nearby; they may require long, difficult journeys or we may walk straight past them every day. The distance traveled is irrelevant: real exploration does not test our wallets or our shoe leather but our imagination.