April 23rd is just around the corner, and with it the day of Sant Jordi (St. George’s day in Catalonia). A celebration that should spread around the world like a stain (of ink), because it combines two beautiful things: books and flowers. And since we always look at things from a traveling standpoint, I’ve made a list of my favorite titles to travel to each continent on the wings of the books that have, at some point, taken me from the couch to exotic, urban, or rural settings… In any part of the world!
Africa: Don’t Say it Was a Dream
Though written by a Spanish novelist (Terenci Moix), this is a very exciting and somewhat pink chronicle of the love between Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The desire to go to Egypt and sail down the Nile was very strong by the time I turned the last page. The author was a renowned lover of ancient history and knew Alexandria like the palm of his hand (to the point that his ashes were scattered in that city).
Asia: Indian Passion
If you like tales of maharajas and maharanis, and descriptions that make you feel the overwhelming heat of India, its smells, and the touch of saris, this is your book. Indian Passion is a love story that narrates the tale of Anita Delgado, a dancer that an Indian king fell in love with when she was just 16 years old. Sometimes reality outdoes fiction, and Javier Moro uses this real-life story to create a passion-filled novel about the life of this girl from Malaga that ended up in Kapurthala.
America: The Discreet Hero
I’m not going to hide my passion for Latin American literature. It almost makes me forget the great writers to be found upwards of Mexico!
Choosing a particular author is hard, but a book that has recently left me hanging between Lima and Piura is The Discreet Hero, by Vargas Llosa. The author describes Lima’s elitist high-society as fluidly as he narrates the comings and goings of day to day life in the small town of Piura, and of course, at times even has you a bit jealous when he describes some of Peru’s typical dishes.
This is the continent I have closest at hand, and most of the books around me are set in the Old Continent. One of my favorite authors, Milan Kundera narrates, in Immortality, the existential crisis faced by a Parisian woman; he also describes Goethe’s house in Weimar, as well as his walks with Beethoven through the spa town of Teplice, in the Czech Republic, and his love triangle with the whimsical Bettina. The lack of identity experienced by the protagonist, Agnes, in as large and complex a city as Paris, is overcome in a refuge in the Swiss mountains. If you read them with heart, Kundera’s words will softly leave you on the streets of all these places.
To be honest, I’ve still not had a chance to get my hands on the novel I am about to talk about next, but considering how badly I want to visit crazy Australia, I suppose it won’t be long before I kidnap this book for a few days. I’m referring to Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, where he conveys the life of two working class families in Perth.
This is a humble guide, because even though these books are great, I’m sure that a thousand others may be more representative of the places I’ve mentioned. However, I guarantee that, at some point, all of these gems have managed to transmit to me the atmosphere of the cities, towns, villages and landscapes where they were set, and that is why I say to you: Be encouraged to travel also with your mind!
And you, what books get you traveling?
Lucía SB, Los Viajes de Claudia.