No Destination: An Autobiography

By Satish Kumar

Rating: 2 stars

I stuck this book on my wishlist after hearing about the author’s peace walk around the world on Radio 4 as it sounded pretty interesting and I wanted to find out more. The early part of Kumar’s life was pretty interesting and I was hooked probably up until he settled in Britain. Hearing about how he was trying to learn Welsh and raise a family were less interesting. However, I think the problem is that I fundamentally disagree with Kumar’s basic philosophy on life. Despite some good points about using fewer resources, his philosophy is what I would call woo. He’s happy using homoeopathy and crystals and all that jazz, and that distracts from his other points.

In saying that, I’m also fundamentally in favour of our high-technology civilisation and understand that things like intensive farming are a requirement for that. Indeed, the green revolution that underpins it is what is keeping most of the world fed today. I’m happy that he’s content with a simple life, milking his cow and lots of manual labour, but frankly that sort of life sounds like hell to me.

He also seems to have a very idealised view of country life and while I agree with him that closing country schools in the name of “efficiency” is a terrible idea, I disagree with his implication that it must be the only way. Centralisation has its benefits, meaning that, at its best, wider ranges of subjects and more and better teachers can be found than would be available in a small community.

On the positive side, the book is well written and mostly engaging. The writing style is the simple and careful style of someone for whom English isn’t his first language, making the book very easy to read. The only exception to this is the last (real – there’s another chapter after it, but since it consists of a single page, I don’t think it counts) chapter, where he stops talking about his life and starts talking about the principals of his beliefs. This was quite dry, academic and somewhat pompous in tone, very unlike what had gone before.

So an interesting read by someone who has a very different outlook on life to myself but worth it for the chapters on his early life in India and the peace march.

Book details

ISBN: 9781870098892
Publisher: UIT Cambridge Ltd.
Year of publication: 1992

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