Saturday, July 11, 2009

Where in the world have you been?

This week's Weekly Geeks asks you to tell us about your globe trotting via books. Are you a global reader? How many countries have you "visited" in your reading? What are your favorite places or cultures to read about? Can you recommend particularly good books about certain regions, countries or continents? How do you find out about books from other countries? What countries would you like to read that you haven't yet?

I am definitely a global reader but I also think that when you read books you inadvertently become a globe trotter. This is the beauty of reading. Without stepping outside the house, I get transported to places and very often times (if you happen to read historical fiction) I wouldn't have a chance to visit in reality.

I honestly can't tell how many places I visited over the years of reading therefore what you see on the map are only the countries that I remember the most. And even to pick my favorites is quite difficult because every country has its charm and something special that cannot be found in any others. I most definitely enjoy reading books set in Japan and China, maybe because the culture is so foreign, so old and so rich in mysticism. India and Africa are also special treats for me. I have fallen in love with India and especially Indian writers when in college studying its literature plus literary works set in colonial and post-colonial period of India by British writers. Africa, especially Nigeria, came into my reading world in college as well, while working on my Master's thesis on Chinua Achebe who is a native of Nigeria. I was simply enchanted by the multitude of languages there (some 200 tribal languages and dialects in Nigeria only), beauty of tribal traditions and beliefs, and of its people. And then there is Europe, with so many countries to choose from it makes me dizzy: Ireland, Spain, Russia and Italy, just to name a few.

The books & authors that have stood out for the past few years are really worth reading as they did make me almost ache for the places they portray.

1. Shantaram by Gregory Roberts. It is a fictionalized account of the authors life in India. It is one chunkster of a book but I was taken in from the first page. I know that there are some opinions that argue that the line between fiction and truth is too blurred, it's hard to say what we should take as facts but I honestly don't care about that. It transported me to India I had never known before, the author's love for this country and Indian people was contagious and gave me no choice but share it.

2. All the novels by Jonathan Carroll. He is not a very well known writer in the United States but from what I remember, extremely popular in Europe. He uses magic realism in his novels, with a perfect mixture of metaphysical, magical and reality. Even though he is a native of New York City, he lives and writes in Vienna. Vienna is also the setting of a lot of his novels and they made me in turn want to visit this magical place with its old streets, enchanting cafeterias and brick buildings. The bullterrier in this photo is also present in many of Jonathan's novels.

3. Margit Sandemo and her Legend of the Ice People. My, oh my how I love this author and her saga set in Norway, spanning the centuries about the clan of witches. Even though it's supernatural, it is also combined with beautiful Scandinavian landscapes and culture. I first read all the books in Polish when I was a teenager and now, almost twenty years later I still remember it all vividly. Sadly the books are not available in the U.S. yet but they have been recently translated into English and are sold on the British market.
This is the map showing all the places I've been to (while reading):

As far as reading about the countries that I have not yet gotten a chance to, Australia is the one that takes the prize. I already have two books on my shelves about Australia and I am getting to them really soon: Bryce Courtenay's Four Fires and Colleen McCullough's Morgan Run.

Well, there it is, my travels around the world.

And to finish the post nicely I must say that I sometimes find myself talking with authority about this or that country and people would ask me, "How do you know that? Have you ever been there?" and I would answer, with just a little pride in my voice, "No, but I read the books.". Ha!