“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” —Anna Quindlen
Each book is a journey through space and time, allowing a glimpse into other worlds and their stories. A possibility to discover new countries, continents, universes. An opportunity to connect with different, often parallel lives, to visit new horizons, and perhaps to understand just a little more about the world we live in – and about the human condition.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” —Dr. Seuss
It is, perhaps, a never-ending journey, because after all, to paraphrase Einstein, the more we learn, the more we realize how much we don’t know.
In 2018, books have taken me to various corners of the world in a somewhat haphazard, random way; much less organized and systematic, yet at the same time much more spontaneous, than any real journey could ever dream to be. Some allowed me to venture along new roads, while others made for discoveries of the unknown along well-trodden paths. Each and every one was a little miracle, or, in the words of Stephen King, a piece of uniquely portable magic.
There was, I realize now, a concentration of books written and set in Northern Europe, mostly crime novels, but not all. They took me to Norway (Joern Lier Horst), Iceland (Ragnar Jonasson) and Sweden (Cilla and Rolf Bjoerlund), while a little real-life trip to Aarhus and its phenomenal bookshops opened my eyes to the Danish world – Helle Helle, Elsebeth Egholm and Dorthe Nors (Mirror, Shoulder, Signal).
In the footsteps of a penguin I travelled to Argentina (Tom Michell – The Penguin Lessons), while I visited the USA through the eyes of Richard Ford (Canada), John Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird). I was fascinated by “Educated”, the memoir of Tara Westover, and it was an American writer, Paulina Simmons, who invited me to explore Leningrad during the harrowing times of WW 2.
Familiar ground was trodden in Germany (Jan Seghers, Juli Zeh), Portugal (Jose Saramago) and Spain, where I found myself exploring the Basque Country through the novels of Eva Garcia Sáenz de Urturi (Trilogía de la Ciudad Blanca) and Fernando Arumburu (Patria). There was a Dolores Redondo book set in Galicia (Todo Esto Te Daré), and Benito Olmo took me to the streets of Cadiz in Andalucía (La Maniobra de la Tortuga).
The two French authors I had the pleasure to discover were Christine Féret-Fleury (Das Mädchen, das in der Metro las) and Laetitia Colombiani, whose story “The Braid” took me to India, Italy and to the US. Again to Italy, this time its northern parts, I ventured with Paolo Cognetti (The Eight Mountains), as well as Jan Morris (Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere).
With Murakami I escaped to Japan (Killing Commendatore) while another Japanese author, Yoko Tawada, took me to Berlin (Memoirs of a Polar Bear).
And then there was Africa. I was introduced to the Angolan author Ondjaki, who took me to his street in Luanda (Os da Minha Rua), and greatly entertained by Oyinkan Braithwaite from Nigeria and “My Sister the Serial Killer”. Mongane Wally Serote’s classic about the Southern African struggle for liberation, “Scatter the Ashes and Go”, was a journey in time as well as in space.
Last but not least, here a quote from one of my favourite book journeys in 2018, which took me to Zimbabwe:
“There was a freedom, beauty even, in that kind of knowledge. It was the kind of knowledge that finally quieted you. It was the kind of knowledge that allowed you to fly.” – Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu, “The Theory of Flight.”
The journey continues; may we never stop learning!
P.S. The early days of 2019 have taken me to explore the Azores with Joel Neto: Meridiano 28