Although originally published in 1984 Cut Stones & Crossroads by Ronald Wright simply remains the pinnacle of any travel writing on Peru. Weaving the country’s rich and diverse culture and its proud Inca history, which saw some of the most violent atrocities of our species Wright captures the very essence of the country and its people at a frenetic pace, without seemingly taking time to draw breath!
Like Ronald Wright I too gained an interest in South America in my youth, while reading my father’s copy of Erich von Däniken (which I’m sure would meet with disdain of the author of this book) captured my young imagination, seeing these magnificent structures of such cultures like the Maya and the Inca, both cultures who many consider lost. It was only later that I learned some of the actual history (which didn’t involve aliens) that the sheer brutality and atrocities came to light for me. Truly one of the most shameful periods in humankind’s existence, with a death toll involving millions.
In Cut Stones & Crossroads, Ronald Wright not only travels across Peru but presents the reader with a duality exploring both the modern and ancient country. From its great Inca empire to its modern (at the time of writing) areas of poverty, crime and neglect as the modern world encroaches over the past. Narrated at a rapid and continual pace with Wright’s acerbic wit, which had me laughing on a number of occasions helps keep reading at the reader’s pace with time to take a breather now and again, capturing the mood completely.
In many ways, Cut Stones & Crossroads brought to mind my native Wales, another country that has undergone attempts to erase its culture and language, and much like the Runasimi has a language and culture very much linked to the land. It did intrigue me that Wright employs the Runasimi spellings of words, such as Machu Piqchu (Machu Picchu) which many writers on the subject rarely adopt. Thankfully the glossary and pronunciations at the rear of the book came of great help.
Cut Stones & Crossroads is a must for anyone looking to travel to Peru. The book stands as an intriguing social document not just to the Inca past but as to the development, or lack of, within the country to our modern eyes.
- Cut Stones & Crossroads by Ronald Wright is published by Eland Books (£12.99). To order a copy go to www.travelbooks.co.uk
Founder and Editor of Pilgrim House, currently undertaking a research degree at Bangor University and working on a book on Folklore and early Welsh Christianity. Tom’s other work on music, poetry, health along other writings and images can be found at tomasstanger.com