Forgot how I initially found out about this mostly-forgotten 1983 travelogue by Carol Dunlop and Julio Cortazár. Back then, not knowing about the authors—for example that Cortazár is hailed as one of the core authors in the Latin American Boom along with the likes of Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel García Marquez and Carlos Fuentes—I was captivated by the book's premise: in May 1982, a couple embark on a 32-day journey on the Autoroute du Soleil, the Paris–Marseilles freeway, aboard a red Volkswagen camper van named Fafner, after the dragon in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Some rules they set for themselves: they can't leave the freeway, have to visit two rest stops per day (overnighting in one), and must record detailed scientific observations about the expedition.

I immediately ordered a copy from my local bookshop, who told me when the book arrived that it had been the very last in stock from the original 1983 edition at Gallimard. This was back in early May and since then I've been inching through the book, essentially a collection of short essays accompanied by photos and a sort of captain's log—with details ranging from what the couple eats to the orientation of Fafner when parked at a rest stop—, it reads best in fragments.

I finished the book earlier this month, 41 years after Dunlop and Cortazár landed in Marseilles. As expected I loved it: the book is at once poetic and silly, romantic, funny, philosophical, experimental, and full of childlike wonder and curiosity. It's what traveling should be like.


Les autonautes de la cosmoroute was written in Spanish and French by the authors, and translated to English as Autonauts of the Cosmoroute, published in 2007 by Archipelago Books.