“Why do the wrong people travel when the right people stay back home?,” asked a Noël Coward song, but a century before such concerns, “le tout Paris” was eagerly visiting Jerusalem and reporting on what they had seen. “Exploring Palestine: 19th century French Travelers in the Holy Land”, published on September 29, 2011 by Les Presses universitaires Paris Sorbonne (PUPS) describes the richly entertaining results.
Its author, Guy Galazka, a literary historian specializing in how Palestine was portrayed in 18th and 19th century Europe, describes tetchy Gallic voyagers whose discomfort provides delight for today’s reader. First there is the lengthy trip itself, with such pilgrims as the novelist Gustave Flaubert, who grouses en route circa 1850:
Every moment I expect to see Jerusalem but I still don’t see it.