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In the psychiatric disorder known as a dissociative fugue state, the sufferer loses his memory and lives another life, at least temporarily. But should the substitution last, a new identity may emerge, even take over the future.
In The Long Road, a man with no memory wakes up in a coffin on Canvey Island, adopts one after the other two identities no longer needed by their dead owners and walks the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain, wondering who he is, or was, while dreaming strangely brilliant mediaeval chivalric dreams.
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The camino, or road, to Santiago de Compostela has always been a hard hike westward from the Pyrenees to the Atlantic — what the Romans called the Dark Sea, Dante’s Ulysses “the unpeopled world behind the sun” and Tennyson’s Ulysses “the bath of all the western stars.”
I tramped it because I needed the exercise and wanted to revisit an unspoilt, only half-modernised and very beautiful — in parts even still mediaeval — stretch of northern Spain. And because my big-hearted sponsors had put their hands in their pockets to contribute a fair round sum to Macmillan Cancer Research. Bless ‘em.
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