Grave Goods – Andrea Wulf.
Welcome to Grave Goods, a series of interviews in which the guest is invited to select five items to accompany them on the Awfully Big Adventure (the list of categories can be found here).
For our third outing, we’re delighted to welcome walker, coffee enthusiast and historian, Andrea Wulf. Her book ‘The Brother Gardeners. Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession‘ won the American Horticultural Society 2010 Book Award, and was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2008. Andrea is currently writing a book about the German explorer and scientist Alexander von Humboldt.
Tools of the Trade
“Can I take my espresso machine? Without it I cannot think, write or read. Making my first coffee in the morning is my favourite ritual of the day. The machine takes about 15min to heat up during which I can potter, unload the dishwasher or do anything that supplies a good excuse not to sit at my desk but during which time I often have the best ideas when I write. The machine is temperamental and sometimes a little complicated but I love it for its unpredictability. . . Since we don’t know where we go beyond the grave, I will take it, just in case. . .”
Food for the Journey
“Definitely a bottle of a really good heavy red wine. No doubt about that. Whatever afterlife might be, I wouldn’t like to be stranded without a decent glass of red wine.”
“This is a photograph of my best friend’s and my walking boots at 5000m on the Chimborazo this summer. It makes me smile every time I look at it – because it reminds me that we’ve walked together for more than 40 years now. Shared paths, history, laughter and cries. Nothing better than that.”
“That’s a difficult one. I’m sure I’ll get tired of any book that I have to read again and again – so, I’ll definitely have to take a multi–volume one. Either Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative – seven volumes packed with descriptions of his exploration of South America (starting in 1799). It conjures up a world of tropical wonder and magnificent landscapes but also has enough scientific detail to keep a reader busy for a long time. Or I’ll take Diderot’s monumental Encyclopédie – the collection of all available knowledge in the eighteenth century. In the hope that after death I’ll get somehow transported back into my favourite century, it’ll provide me with all the insights I’ll need. And I might take the original French edition – assuming that there will be much more time after death, I will finally learn French properly.”
“I think, I’ll settle for a telescope. Maybe it’ll allow me to catch a glimpse of earth (and maybe even my family and friends) – and if not, I can at least stare into infinity. . .”
A Message from Beyond the Grave
“Close your eyes, prick your ears, and from the softest sound to the wildest noise, from the simplest tone to the highest harmony, from the most violent, passionate scream to the gentlest words of sweet reason, it is by Nature who speaks, revealing her being, her power, her life, and her relatedness so that a blind person, to whom the infinitely visible world is denied, can grasp an infinite vitality in what can be heard.”
Andrea Wulf was born India, moved to Germany as a child, and now lives in Britain. She is the author of several books including ‘Founding Gardeners‘ and ‘Chasing Venus‘. Andrea was the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence 2013, and a three-time fellow of the International Centre for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. She’s currently writing a book about the German explorer and scientist Alexander von Humboldt.