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Transit of Venus: Travels in the Pacific


The Pacific Ocean calls to mind a world of fabulous kingdoms and noble savages, guilt free sex and gin-clear lagoons, and a perfect idleness fed by lush fruits and fish-rich seas. Ever since Captain Cook first went to Tahiti in 1769 to observe the transit of Venus across the sun, this dream of the Pacific has not lost its force. But Julian Evans's journey through the island archipelagos of the Great Ocean was also informed by a quest into our more modern myths - such as Peacekeeper missiles and nuclear bombs being tested by the US Army. With humour and vivid imagery, honesty and a wickedly sardonic wit, Evans uncovers the reality of these two Pacific dreams: a brave new ocean where the islanders have money and booze, military coups and cold-war politics, atomic explosions and rising sea levels, but where, in the remotest atolls, beyond all our modernity and rationality, the old dream of islands continues to assert itself.


Julian Evans is the author of Transit of Venus, an account of a journey to the heart of the US nuclear-missile testing programme, and Semi-Invisible Man, the acclaimed biography of Norman Lewis.

In 1990 he left his job in London to island-hop across the Pacific Ocean by ship, small plane and boat, a journey that ended six months later on Kwajalein atoll in the mid-Pacific, home to the USA's secret nuclear-missile test range. The book that resulted, Transit of Venus, was described by Norman Lewis as "far and away the best book about the Pacific of our times" and the Lonely Planet guides as "the best modern travelogue about the Pacific". 

Julian writes for English and French newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, Prospect, Times Literary Supplement and L'Atelier du Roman. He is a trustee of English PEN, a recipient of the Prix du Rayonnement de la Langue Française from the Académie Française, and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of the West of England. 

His highly praised 2008 biography of the writer and adventurer Norman Lewis, Semi-Invisible Man, was a Book of the Year in the Guardian, Spectator and New Statesman. He is married to the artist Natasha Dikaya, and they have two children.

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