All experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Tracks is a compilation of personal travel essays that range across three continents, from Italy, where Genni Gunn was born and spent her early years, to Canada, the US and Mexico, and through Asia, where she has travelled many times, both reconnecting with her sister and witnessing the emergence of new political realities in Myanmar. This is no mere travelogue, however; the journeys into the new and unknown also trigger the inner journey to the realm of memory. These pieces dig deep into personal territory, exploring the family ties of an unusually peripatetic family.
In the 1950s, Gunn's parents travelled within Italy, settling wherever Gunn's father's work took him. Their two daughters were parcelled out to relatives, until the family reunited in Canada years later. Gunn's father was a mysterious presence - much later Gunn learned he was working with British Intelligence, but during her childhood all she knew was that he would disappear as suddenly as he had appeared. Indelibly marked by this abandonment, the daughters become wanderers themselves. While in some ways, their world shrank with the departure of their parents, in other ways, their imaginations were opened to new possibilities. Gunn explores some of those possibilities in this collection.
An inveterate traveller, Gunn questions the impulse behind the need to stay in motion, to always be the "other" in the world, while always seeking the home that never was.
"What is this magnetic pull to movement, if not to encounter the foreign?" she asks. "In Canada, my father longed to return to some imagined place, to some connection, a memory perhaps, restless and unsettled. He travelled back and forth across lands, and oceans, yearning in desire. I used to think my father was Ulysses, searching for the untravelled world; I used to think he chose the distance; I used to think we were the ever-fading margin, being no strangers to travel, my sister and I. As far as I can remember, and before that, we have been travelling to and from each other. Our parents were in constant movement, separating, reattaching themselves to each other in a vagabond existence, their entrances and exits sudden and dramatic."