Edmund O'Donovan in Asia and Africa: Literary Journalism at the Edge of Empire

Griffiths, Andrew (2022). Edmund O'Donovan in Asia and Africa: Literary Journalism at the Edge of Empire. The Routledge Companion to World Literary Journalism pp. 239–252.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429331923-21

Abstract

As a special correspondent covering conflict and foreign affairs, Edmund O’Donovan built his reputation on border crossings and frontier travel. This chapter examines two case studies: O’Donovan’s 1879–81 journey to Merv, in modern-day Turkmenistan, and his death during the defeat of Hicks Pasha’s expedition in the Sudan in 1883. O’Donovan’s writing provides a snapshot of loosely regulated borderlands and frontier zones that were shortly to be regularized by occupation, annexation, and treaty. The chapter argues that O’Donovan simultaneously magnified and diminished the experience of crossing borders, imagining a clearly demarcated line between states, but describing in practice more loosely defined borderlands and frontier zones. The resulting tension helps to establish a persona as both transgressive journalist-explorer and as a guide offering an accessible experience to his readers.

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