Saturday, August 27, 2011

Voyage of the well-read

Lonely Planet guides are not the only must-reads for a holiday

I often want, before going to a foreign city, to read literature set in that city. But between packing and scrambling for visas, there is little time for, say, the memoirs of Orhan Pamuk. So I usually travel as a literary blank slate.

This holiday to Rome, Venice, and Florence had been organised back in January, and I had planned to read Patricia Highsmith's “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” or the Venetian parts of “Brideshead Revisited.” But as the months crept up, I hadn't even flipped through a phrasebook, much less soaked in the history and atmosphere of Italy.

With just weeks to go, I scanned my shelves for what might be useful. Shakespeare is not. He wrote “Othello” and “Julius Caesar” on a London street, and it shows. But subsequent British writers saw the foreign places they wrote about. Mostly they showed English sensitivities clashing against Continental aesthetics, and they worked in plenty of scenery.

Full report here Hindu

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