Fred’s Diaries 1981, proves that reality is usually more interesting than fiction. This book features the author – who could be anyone’s friend – travelling through Asia in his mid twenties and experiencing a series of adventures that test his resilient and likable character. The aim of the book, however, is not about getting into the author’s mind, it is a diary and, because of this format, it brings to life the subculture of young western – Australian and New Zealanders included in the definition – travelers/adventurers crossing Asia in the early eighties. Like other travelers, Fred is out there to enjoy freedom and the relative wealth that his European currency provides him. However, in the process, what he ends up discovering is himself during his 6 month existence beyond the walls of western civilization.
Although the reader enters in contact with the surroundings and its people through his foreign eyes it does not make the experience less fascinating and vivid. On the contrary, Fred’s heart-felt awe towards the beauty and the intensity of the place, his appetite for living the adventure, the mishaps and his clear narrative “takes you there” allowing you to re-live the experience. The feeling is as if these could have been your own diaries, had you been lucky (or unlucky) enough to have had the same conditions in that time and place.
The diaries are also a kind of a time capsule, in its pages we are thrown back to an era with no internet , with no religious fanaticism, with better preserved local cultures and with “ganja” being used generously among the westerners as a way of getting close to like-minded people. As the author warns in the book’s preface, if you have an issue with Cannabis perhaps this is not the book for you. As for me I confess to have felt a bit of envy, Fred consumes some of the finest stuff the planet can provide. The book is an excellent read, it grabbed my attention and I was always wondering what would happen next. As a non-Anglo Saxon reader, what kept on coming to mind as the author takes decisions I would never have taken and as he relates to people in a way I would never do was The Who’s song “Behind Blue Eyes”. A must read for all those who lived that era or who in some way relate to it.