For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Outsider

From Portloe you walk a very pretty stretch which takes you past some splendidly isolated coves and beaches, then round Dodman Point to Gorran Haven, home of the writer, Colin Wilson, and his wife, Joy. They've lived most of their lives here. I discovered Wilson in my twenties after picking up his first book, The Outsider, in a North London public library. I just couldn't put it down. I'd found someone who was talking directly to me.

This book, written in 1956 when Wilson was twenty-four, immediately became a cult classic, and sold millions of copies all over the world. He wrote it in the British Museum Reading Room while spending his nights sleeping rough on Hampstead Heath. It's a book of eternal appeal to the perpetual adolescent in its study of literary 'outsiders' - from Dostoyevsky's Underground Man to Hesse's Steppenwolf and Sartre's nihilistic anti-hero, Roquentin, in his novel Nausea. However the book is essentially optimistic, arguing that we can all experience mystical moments of transcendence, peak experiences which have the power to lift us out of this bleak, material, humdrum existence, if we would only turn our minds to the task.

Wilson has gone on to write over a hundred books, both fiction and non-fiction, on subjects like mysticism, the occult and criminology. He is Cornwall's most prolific author. On a previous visit to Cornwall my wife and I actually passed him and Joy on Hemmick Beach as they exercised their dogs. And, subsequently, I had the great honour and good fortune to meet him properly at a publishing sales conference in Soho's Groucho Club.

This green valley lies just beyond Gorran Haven. The Wilsons used to live in a rented cottage at the top of this valley when they first came to Cornwall...


The stream trickles into a tiny cove at Colona Beach. Wilson used to walk down here for recreation and inspiration. It must be one of the loveliest little beaches on the whole coastal path...




Beyond Colona it's not far to the delightful fishing port of Mevagissey, where I stopped the night. It was very crowded with tourists eating fish and chips in the open from polystyrene trays. Women shouted at their kids and the kids shouted back. Rotund men in straining T-shirts guzzled pint after pint and wolfed pizza after pizza. I think the best time to see this place would be out of the holiday season...



5 comments:

George said...

What a great story about Colin Wilson. It sounds like a life I might have liked to live, though the present one has been wonderful on the whole. The photos are lovely again, especially of those of the beaches and tranquil coves. I also love the photo of the fishing village of Mevagissy.

Val said...

Colona beach looks lovely and safely hidden from the hoards. I do like those boats though. Looks like i need to read that book then. happy walking

The Weaver of Grass said...

I often wonder what it would be like to live in places like this Robert. It all looks so idyllic but then one would have to cope with the holiday influx I suppose. I have always wondered whether it would be good to live by the sea.

ksam said...

Beautiful pictures, esp. the house above the beach! That'd be a house to try living in. I know people with shore houses near me, and they all wait patiently for the season to end in Sept., then they can reclaim the beaches and the views.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your comments!

I'm never sure whether I'd like to live by the sea on not. Yes, at the moment, I think I would - or perhaps just a mile or two inland...