Around the world in five novels
In ‘Memories of Africa’, the acclaimed book by Karen Blixen, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford are the ultimate ambassadors for a journey around Kenya. And many literary destinations have been converted into films, as Julia Roberts attest after filming ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ or, said another way, taking advantage of the journey.
A lot of ink has been used to write about the United States. Some of the most recent books set in the metropolis include ‘Ventanas de Manhattan’ (The Windows of Manhattan), by Antonio Muñoz Molina, a Spanish writer who has settled in the city of skyscrapers, as well as O. Henry’s ‘The New York Stories’. And, of course, the verses of Lorca or Salinas describing the explosion of modernity. But we recommend ‘The New York Trilogy’ by Paul Auster. A thriller to dive into while discovering the city that never sleeps. He writes, ‘New York was an inexhaustible space, a labyrinth of endless steps, no matter how well he came to know its neighbourhoods and streets, it always left him with the feeling of being lost’.
Continuing with crime novels, in ‘Our Man in Havana’, the British writer Graham Greene presents pre-revolutionary Cuba in the 1950s. The author’s adventurous spirit accompanies his literary tour of the island, disentangling the complex local customs and society, and in doing so earning Greene the criticism of Fidel Castro himself. Although the Caribbean has also been a source of creative inspiration, South America beats it hands down. Argentina alone, especially Buenos Aires, could be mapped out through the books that are set in its streets: tales by Borges, or stories by Cortázar.
Cortázar takes us to Paris in the 1970s. Here, the love between La Maga and Horacio would make no sense without their walks through the Latin Quarter. The writer’s grave can be visited in Montparnasse, where fans lovingly drawing hopscotches on it. In Europe, the most literary destination is Greece, and not only for its epic poems. As an alternative to ‘The Iliad’, the selection of short stories by Natividad Gálvez gives you the chance to tour the country.
Paul Bowles embodies the perfect combination of two passions: writing and travelling. “He did not think of himself as a tourist; he was a traveller. The difference is partly one of time, he would explain. Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveller, belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly, over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another,” he observes in ‘The Sheltering Sky’. Port and Kit, a couple from New York, are the protagonists of this journey to the Sahara Desert. They are a reflection of the author. Bowles and his wife’s errant spirits couldn’t resist returning to Tangier and they settled in Africa at the end of the 1940s.
‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ was as successful as Khaled Hosseini’s previous novel, ‘The Kite Runner’. A journey through the reality of Afghanistan in the company of the protagonists, two Afghan women joined by one destination. From Herat to Kabul, the narration moves freely around the city and its traditions. Travelling not only to discover places, but also cultures. Experiences acquired along paths and in letters. Like José Vasconcelos once said, “A book, like a journey, starts with inquisitiveness and ends with melancholy.”