Literary Tourism for Quimper

We encounter space but we make place.  In my collection of verse, Europa (2006), I first began to form this idea, probably prompted by the French poet, Yves Bonnefoy, who, incidentally, was born in Tours on the Loire in 1923.  When we travel, it is clear that unknown towns and ports offer opportunities for the relief from space, not only the undifferentiated space of the ocean but also the possibility of an encounter that will relieve the isolation of the visiting researcher.  An isolation felt in the space of a noisy crowd.  Max Jacob makes this encounter.  His drunken sea captain is the beginning of a story that will make a place out of the space of Quimper’s crowds.  Where is that coffee house?  Why does the action move to there?  A demand is set up in the literary tourist.  Like me, Andreas in his comment on the previous post, is drawn to those civilised European places, coffee houses.

But we embark on fieldtrips and holidays with intention and expectation.  Ajzen (1991) has theorised about this type of planned behaviour.  The tourism specialist categorises these two aspects of visitors’ testimony as they plan their time at the destination to help reveal how tourists will seek pleasure at the holiday site.  For the travel writer a simplified process can be extracted from the two elements of visitors’ expectations and intentions to write an article that offers advice in both areas.  What to expect.  What to do.

My intention during this fieldwork in Quimper was to find any traces of the poet, Max Jacob.  Is there a street which still bears a trace of the name, Chestnut Quay, for example?  Could that coffee house still exist?  My expectations, though, are lower.  I have been disappointed before in quests to find traces of earlier writers in tourist destinations.  William Crossing, a travel writer who lived in South Brent, Devon in the nineteenth century is unknown to locals and no one knew where his former house was situated under the shadow of Dartmoor’s looming mass during my field visit there.  William Crossing is famous for documenting the little people in his book of 1890 Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies: Glimpses of Elfin Haunts and Antics. Very cleverly, he adds narrative to those empty spaces of the wild moorland turning them into places.  Crossing’s presence now is as ephemeral as the elusive pixies.  The ferry crossing, long into the night, provides ample opportunity for reading.


Ajzen, I. (1991) ‘The theory of planned behavior’ Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2) 179-211.

Crossing, W. (1890) Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies: Glimpses of Elfin Haunts and Antics. [online] Available at

Your French Lesson today is on adjectives. J’avais toujours son petit livre vert foncé. ‘I still had her little, dark green book’.  – There is no way of telling in French if it is his book or her book. The possessive adjective agrees with the object, the book in this case, not the subject.  Look, too, at those adjectives all stacked around le livre, the book.  Little, before the noun, then green and dark after it, whereas in English adjectives come rushing in before the noun, making themselves seem more important than the book itself.