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Neither Here, Nor There
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Neither Here, Nor There [Format Kindle]

Bill Bryson
3.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)

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Chapter One

To the North

In winter, Hammerfest is a thirty-hour ride by bus from Oslo, though why anyone would want to go there in winter is a question worth considering. It is on the edge of the world, the northernmost town in Europe, as far from London as London is from Tunis, a place of dark and brutal winters, where the sun sinks into the Arctic Ocean in November and does not rise again for ten weeks.

I wanted to see the Northern Lights. Also, I had long harbored a half-formed urge to experience what life was like in such a remote and forbidding place. Sitting at home in England with a glass of whiskey and a book of maps, this had seemed a capital idea. But now as I picked my way through the gray late December slush of Oslo, I was beginning to have my doubts.

Things had not started well. I had overslept at the hotel, missing breakfast, and had to leap into my clothes. I couldn't find a cab and had to drag my ludicrously overweight bag eight blocks through slush to the central bus station. I had had huge difficulty persuading the staff at the Kreditkassen Bank on Karl Johansgate to cash sufficient travelers' checks to pay the extortionate 1,200-kroner bus fare — they simply could not be made to grasp that the William McGuire Bryson on my passport and the Bill Bryson on my travelers' checks were both me — and now here I was arriving at the station two minutes before departure, breathless and steaming from the endless uphill exertion that is my life, and the girl at the ticket counter was telling me that she had no record of my reservation.

"This isn't happening," I said. "I'm still at home in England enjoying Christmas. Pass me a drop more port, will you, darling?" Actually, I said: "There must be some mistake. Please look again."

The girl studied the passenger manifest. "No, Mr. Bryson, your name is not here."

But I could see it, even upside down. "There it is, second from the bottom."

"No," the girl decided, "that says Bernt Bjørnson. That's a Norwegian name."

"It doesn't say Bernt Bjørnson. It says Bill Bryson. Look at the loop of the y, the two l's. Miss, please."

But she wouldn't have it.

"If I miss this bus when does the next one go?"

"Next week at the same time."

Oh, splendid.

"Miss, believe me, it says Bill Bryson."

"No, it doesn't."

"Miss, look, I've come from England. I'm carrying some medicine that could save a child's life." She didn't buy this. "I want to see the manager."

"He's in Stavanger."

"Listen, I made a reservation by telephone. If I don't get on this bus I am going to write a letter to your manager that will cast a shadow over your career prospects for the rest of this century." This clearly did not alarm her. Then it occurred to me. "If this Bernt Bjørnson doesn't show up, can I have his seat?"


Why don't I think of these things in the first place and save myself the anguish? "Thank you," I said and lugged my bag outside.

The bus was a large double-decker, like an American Greyhound, but only the front half of the upstairs had seats and windows. The rest was solid aluminum covered with a worryingly psychedelic painting of an intergalactic landscape, like the cover of a pulp science fiction novel, with the words "Express 2000" emblazoned across the tail of a comet. For one giddy moment I thought the windowless back end might contain a kind of dormitory and that at bedtime we would be escorted back there by a stewardess who would invite us to choose a couchette. I was prepared to pay any amount of money for this option. But I was mistaken. The back end, and all the space below us, was for freight. "Express 2000" was really just a long-distance truck with passengers.

We left at exactly noon. I quickly realized that everything about the bus was designed for discomfort. I was sitting beside the heater, so that while chill drafts teased by upper extremities, my left leg grew so hot that I could hear the hairs on it crackle. The seats were designed by a dwarf seeking revenge on full-sized people; there was no other explanation. The young man in front of me had put his seat so far back that his head was all but in my lap. He had the sort of face that makes you realize God does have a sense of humor and he was reading a comic book called Tommy og Tigern. My own seat was raked at a peculiar angle that induced immediate and lasting neckache. It had a lever on its side, which I supposed might bring it back to a more comfortable position, but I knew from long experience that if I touched it even tentatively the seat would fly back and crush both the kneecaps of the sweet little old lady sitting behind me, so I left it alone. The woman beside me, who was obviously a veteran of these polar campaigns, unloaded quantities of magazines, tissues, throat lozenges, ointments, unguents, and fruit pastilles into the seat pocket in front of her, then settled beneath a blanket and slept more or less continuously through the whole trip.

We bounced through a snowy half-light, out through the sprawling suburbs of Oslo and into the countryside. The scattered villages and farmhouses looked trim and prosperous in the endless dusk. Every house had Christmas lights burning cheerily in the windows. I quickly settled into that not unpleasant state of mindlessness that tends to overcome me on long journeys, my head lolling on my shoulders in the manner of someone who has lost all control of his neck muscles...

From Publishers Weekly

After 20 years as a London-based reporter, American journalist Bryson ( The Mother Tongue ) set out to retrace a youthful European backpacking trip, from arctic Norway's northern lights to romantic Capri and the "collective delirium" of Istanbul. Descriptions of historic and artistic sights in the Continent's capitals are cursory; Bryson prefers lesser-known locales, whose peculiar flavor he skillfully conveys in anecdotes that don't scant the seamy side and often portray eccentric characters encountered during untoward adventures of the road. He enlivens the narrative with keen, sometimes acerbic observations of national quirks like the timed light switches in French hallways, but tends to strive too hard for comic effects, some in dubious taste. He also joins other travelers in deploring the growing hordes of peddlers who overrun major tourist meccas.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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7 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 à lire 29 janvier 2004
Un autre classique de Bill Bryson ! Avec son humour décoiffant, Bill décrit ses voyages en Europe. Il va en Italie, en France, en Allemagne... et jusqu'à la pointe nord de la Norvège. Tout ceci pour nous écrire un livre rempli d'ironie et de dérision. On y apprend des tas de choses sur l'Europe, et on rigole beaucoup !
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2.0 étoiles sur 5 Boring 10 février 2013
Par David
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
I was bored after a few pages, mainly because I soon realised I had read it many years ago, also I do not like his swearing.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.9 étoiles sur 5  280 commentaires
221 internautes sur 236 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I guess you had to be there . . . . 6 mars 2000
Par Un client - Publié sur
It's interesting to read through the reviews for this book: most of those praising the book either come from Europeans, or else mention "Neither Here Nor There" resonating with their memories of travelling in Europe. The negative reviews all chastise Bryson for being too superficial, or shallow, or racist, or for not 'interacting' properly with the people he meets. What's particularly strange is the number of reviews that praise Bryson's other books, then say this one is not up to his standard.
Well, to those who fail to catch the humor here: book a flight to Europe, and see for yourselves. Europeans aren't somehow beyond the possibility of being unintentionally funny, and Bryson is not being an 'ugly American' for pointing out their foibles in very funny ways--witness, for example, his devastatingly funny transliteration of Dutch conversation, or his adventures getting travellers' checks replaced after they've been stolen by a Gypsy girl in Italy.
Bryson is also honest. He tells you what he likes, and what he doesn't, and, far from being xenophobic or parochial, he's perfectly willing to change his mind when a place he visits either exceeds or falls short of his expectations. He lavishes praise on the most unlikely of destinations, and avoids the fawning tones of many travel writers who feel somehow obligated to adore every place they visit, especially the most famous ones. All real travellers are familiar with this phenomenon: the most intense joys of travel are most likely to be experienced in the least obvious places, and often at the most inopportune times.
Finally, Bryson is simply funny, and this book is too. I hope he comes to Asia next.
67 internautes sur 72 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 No need to get in a fuss-this truly is a hilarious read! 13 mai 2001
Par "loveball" - Publié sur
I believe there are more than enough reviews here to decifer whether or not you plan to read this charming, witty and candid book. However, as an Australian raised in both Europe and America, I must heed a warning to those of you who read the negative reviews by Europeans and Asians. DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM!! They obviously lack a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at themselves (unlike Bryson). Bryson can be provincial at times, but he is so charming indeed! One who has traveled for days in a foreign land can understand his exhaustion and frustration and will howl with laughter.
Yes, Bryson at times can be brutally honest with his opinion of foreign countries and their inhabitants and culture, but they are HIS OPINIONS and they are frankly FUNNY and quite observant. I suppose those who take offense to his opinions neglected to understand that Bryson is a brazen self critic and will unabashedly admit to his lack of sophistication due to his stereotypical midwestern American upbringing. Please take no notice to the malevolence of the quazi-sensitive and humourless French and Germans who negatively reviewed this charming and engaging work.
Give the man a break and give this book a READ...Unless you possess absolutely no sense of humour, you will find it quite enjoyable!
44 internautes sur 49 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A funny way to improve your cultural knowledge 4 novembre 2002
Par Martina Michelic - Publié sur
In his book "Neither here nor there" Bill Bryson writes about the experiences he made when he was travelling through nearly the whole of Europe, fluent in only one language (which is English).
He starts in Hammerfest, Norway (as far north as you can get in the world by public means of transport, he says), goes to Paris, Brussels, Belgium, Aachen and Cologne in Germany, then on to Amsterdam, Hamburg in Germany again, Copenhagen in Denmark, then onto Sweden (Gothenburg and Stockholm), then down to Rome, then to southern Italy (Naples, Capri and Sorrento), up to the top (Milan, Como), through Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Yugoslavia, Sofia in Bulgaria, and finally Istanbul.
As you can see, by reading this book you'll learn a lot about European countries with their different languages, customs, habits and ways of life. But this isn't one of those boring highbrow books, that you can't read without falling asleep - no! - once you start reading you can't stop. Bryson has a unique brand of humour that I personally like very much. He is able to crack jokes about any situation, no matter how hopelessly and unpleasing they might have been.
Especially as an European citizen you'll have a lot of fun because you recognize all the stereotypes that you know either from telling or personal experience. And be prepared for some nasty jokes about your compatriots!
All in all I can highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to get to know European countries in an amusing and interesting way.
28 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Bill Bryson has an incredible sense of humor 17 avril 2001
Par "maria16" - Publié sur
Bill Bryson really made it big in England after the release of 'Notes from a Small Island', which, however isn't his best book. His best would be either 'The Lost Continent' or this book 'Neither Here Nor There'. I very rarely laugh out loud at TV shows or books. Only 'Frasier' on TV and Bill Bryson in books have this capacity to make me laugh relentlessly. 'Neither here Nor There' is Bryson's story of the reenactment of his student-day travels through Europe some twenty years later. He tries to visit all the places that he visited with Katz (yup, he appears in 'Walk in the Woods' too) in the seventies, as well as Norway to see the northern lights. Bryson's descriptions of situations are hilarious, primarily because he is just a normal guy and you can imagine yourself in the same situation, especially if you have visited any of the countries he visits, but even if you haven't, it is still a delight to read. Another great thing about Bill Bryson is that he is not afraid to be politically incorrect, calling France's population 'Insufferably French' to give just one example. He is also happy to insult a place if he feels it deserves it, something which other travel writers can seem reluctant to do. He of course balances out these criticisms with his entusiasm for so many places and you also learn many interesting facts from his stories such as Liechtenstein is the world's largest producer of sausage skins and dentures. Hands up who knew that!!! I can't even begin to do this book justice in my review, all I can say is buy Bill Bryson's books and I promise you will not be dissppointed, they are all a joy to read. Bill seems a lovely guy and, in his words, not mine, 'If he wishes to acknowledge this unsolicited endorsement with a set of luggage or a skiing holiday in the Rockies, let the record show that I am ready to accept it'!!!
27 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Not a travel guide but for pure entertainment - VERY funny 1 mars 2001
Par Kcorn - Publié sur
If you're looking for a travel book to use when you explore Europe, this one won't be the most useful book out there. But if you are looking for entertainment, want to learn a bit about Europe and are prepared to laugh uproariously, this is a great choice. Bryson skewers the traditions and habits of other countries, recounts many hilarious experiences during his travels and describes some of the best (and worst) destinations in Europe. He has a fine writing style, casual, breezy and unique. The section on waiting for The Northern Lights to appear - and waiting and waiting for days on end - was worth the price of the book alone.
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