From the amount of critical attention and the number of labels applied to travel writing in recent years, one may well wonder whether critics are discussing the same object. Among the wide range of terms in use are: 'travel book', 'travel narrative', 'journeywork', 'travel memoir', 'travel story', 'travelogue', 'metatravelogue', 'traveller's tale', 'travel journal', or simply 'travels' (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville), and, in a different vein, 'travel writing', 'travel literature', 'the literature of travel' and 'the travel genre'. While I do not refute the validity of any of these terms, their sheer abundance raises the question of what we actually mean by the travel book and travel writing. An answer in generic terms is far from being obvious, as Tim Youngs notes in his study, Travellers in Africa:

Travel writing feeds from and back into other forms of literature. To try to identify boundaries between various forms would be impossible and I would be deeply suspicious of any attempt at the task. 1

The point to determine, therefore, is whether travel writing is really a genre at all. I shall argue here that it is not a genre, but a collective term for a variety of texts both predominantly fictional and non-fictional whose main theme is travel. That said, the terms travel book or travelogue usefully describe a genre known in French as récit de voyage, and in German as Das Reisebuch or Der Reisebericht, a category of texts that are an integral part of travel writing. I will try to illustrate these points by looking at the hybrid nature of the travel book and travel writing, the role of the Active and the referential, as well as at other works of representation. Finally. I would like to stress that the literary is at work in travel writing, and that it therefore seems appropriate to consider the terms the literature of travel, or simply travel literature, as synonyms of travel writing.