Bourdain’s Field Notes

MADAGASCAR, May 2015—Travel is not always comfortable, even when the scenery is at its most beautiful. Look out the window, get too close, and the reality of the situation—the world you will soon be leaving behind—intrudes.

I’m talking, of course, about crushing poverty, hunger, and the kind of desperation people can find themselves in when feeding themselves and their families becomes a matter of immediate urgency.

On “Parts Unknown,” we travel to a lot of places where people are poor. We either choose—or don’t choose—in every case, to concentrate on that aspect of daily life. We try hard to acknowledge the reality of the situation. But often, admittedly, we shy away from diving too deep into awfulness because we’re aware that viewers will often be unable to take it, that they’ll find prolonged depictions of the way millions of people live around the world just too damned depressing. They will, in all likelihood, change the channel. And we don’t want that.

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