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Photo Museum Ireland

Far Near by Jens Olof Lasthein

Far Near by Jens Olof Lasthein

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A visual journey to the farthest-flung corners of Europe—and to the centre of the continent.

" I grew up in a westerly wind. It swept in from the sea, scouring the flat landscape where I lived. Any solitary, unprotected trees grew sideways, bowed down in an unequal battle against the relentless wind. It was as far from the capital as you could get, a land on the edge of Europe. My home dialect was never one you heard on the television, and it always met with indulgent smiles from people in the big city. If they understood what we were saying in the first place.

    For this book, I travelled to the farthest-flung corners of Europe, as far from the centre as I could get—Iceland in the northwest, the northern Ural Mountains in the northeast, the Caucasus in the southeast, Portugal in the southwest—and I was amazed there, and felt at home.

    On my travels, I discovered that if you draw diagonal lines across the map between those corners, they intersect in what logically must be the centre of Europe: Belarus. I have visited Belarus many times. But not once did it occur to me that I was at the central point in Europe. More often it felt as if I had travelled back in time to the faraway corner where I grew up.

    In the heart of Europe or on the periphery, wherever my travels took me I was on the margins. And there is probably no one to blame for that but me, and the margins I carry with me."

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