Faber & Faber has acquired a book by former Pan Macmillan editorial director Will Atkins about his time spent in the Omani desert.
Atkins spent three years travelling the world’s deserts, and wrote a 12,000-word account of his time in the Omani desert.
British Commonwealth and translation rights for The Desert were bought by Lee Brackstone at Faber & Faber, while North American rights were pre-empted in a joint deal by Gerry Howard at Doubleday NY and Louise Dennys at Knopf in Canada, from Patrick Walsh at Conville & Walsh.
The Desert follows The Moor, released in hardback last year by Faber & Faber, about Atkins’ journey across Britain’s moorlands.
While Atkins was walking over Britain’s moors he stayed in a Benedictine monastery for a period, and became intrigued by and researched the origins of monastic life back to the 3rd century AD.
Walsh said: “What he discovered was that all the world’s monasteries have their origins with the Desert Fathers of the 3rd century, the 10,000 or so hermits who had followed St Anthony’s example by taking up solitary lives in the Egyptian deserts, forswearing money and family – the only problem being that so many took up the life that they began forming communities of solitaries, itself a contradiction, in turn inspiring St Benedict to found the first monasteries in Europe.
“But why had those solitaries sought out the desert in the first place? And why do we feel that same pull now? That’s the question which prompted Will to examine how we imagine deserts to be wild unpeopled places when they have always been travelled or inhabited, and more recently used as places where we discard the unwanted or the unneeded. Moreover deserts have a unique appeal, and more so now when our lives have never seemed busier and when we are more and more yapped at by devices - representing an escape, places where the soul can confront itself, where life is somehow purer.
“It was from that starting-point that Will undertook his own journey into the Omani desert, the southern section of the great Empty Quarter which once drew such early explorers as Wilfred Thesiger and St John Philby to make their own crossings of that great sand sea.”
The book will be delivered in spring 2017.