Globetrotting, bookwise

I’ve not thought of myself as particularly insular where history, geography and politics are concerned but I have been aware that for some years the literature I’ve tended to gravitate towards has been firmly Anglocentric, with occasional forays in the direction of North America.

There are many reasons for this sad state of affairs but no excuses — all I can say is that it’s particularly shameful to me that a childhood growing up in what was then called the Far East, plus a subsequent sprinkling of study in some of the so-called Romance languages of Europe, hasn’t led to a broader familiarity with world literature.

So . . . Reading All Around the World. I’m not actually doing this challenge, but a recent-ish post by Lory caught my eye and I thought I’d check where, bookwise, I’ve already travelled in this year of grace, two-thirds of the way through twenty-twenty, with 52 titles under my belt.

Not far, it turns out.

The Catalogue

Finland (Tove Jansson), Austria (Stefan Zweig), Persia (Omar Khayaam), Ireland (Oscar Wilde) and Poland (Andrzej Sapkowski), possibly Malaysia (Zen Cho), represent the nations of my 2020 authors; and my latest review, of Robertson Davies’ Tempest-Tost, also had me visiting Canada.

Of course, courtesy of UK/US writers I’ve also travelled to Iraq (Agatha Christie), Turkey (Philip Pullman), and China (Charles C Finney). And there are all the imaginary places on this world and off-world — but we won’t count those!

And where have I to look forward to in the coming months? I’ve raced through (and now reviewed) John Le Carré’s A Legacy of Spies which took me from Brittany in France to Germany and what was Czechoslovakia. Then when I complete Melville’s Moby-Dick I will have — this I already know — travelled from the Atlantic to finish all at sea in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Anne Radcliffe’s A Sicilian Romance is, as the title implies, set in Sicily, and a reread of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto will allow me to step onto the mainland of Italy.

I also have my eyes on Afghanistan (via Norway) and China . . . but I really dislike committing too much to specific titles — I prefer the vagaries of personal tastes and whims to over-timetabling my reading. But maybe at year’s end I shall retrospectively outline my arbitrary literary itinerary.

And you? Where have you trotted — virtually — on this globe during, or indeed out of, lockdown, with your books as your passe-partout?

24 thoughts on “Globetrotting, bookwise

  1. My reading has been much more mobile than I have. I have not read a single thing from Norway, where my actual body has been confined for most of the year, but I have done a decent job travelling the world. UK and US are of course well-travelled, that’s where most of my comfort reads come from, and I have spent more time than I usually do reading Swedish literature and feeling homesick. Six visits to Finland (all of them in Tove Jansson’s company), two visits each to France and Japan, while Iceland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Poland, Ireland, Russia, India, Australia, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Rwanda, Mexico and Colombia, got one visit each.

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    1. That’s an impressive range — though I know you don’t do it to impress! — not just Europe and North America but Africa, Asia and South America feature. It’s so wonderful that books allow us to do virtual visits when external events stop us travelling.

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  2. This has given me pause for thought as, just as in real life, I have not trotted very far this year, although India and the Amazon rainforest have featured. I’m now going to scan the books I’ve read to confirm my fears. Next month is World Kid Lit month so I plan to make sure that I read at least one translated book for children. Thank you for the prompt, Chris.

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    1. Oh, thanks for this link, Anne, I think I shall probably participate in this — I intended reading another Moomin book anyway and I have a A Chinese Cinderella which I feel a teensy bit guilty about stalling on a third of the way through.

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  3. I think we are so fortunate to be able to travel the world through books and I wish I had entered on this journey much earlier! Still, it’s never too late to begin (another great thing about reading – our physical stamina or availability of funds is not an issue). I hope you enjoy your bookish travels wherever they take you.

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    1. Thanks, Lory, for drawing attention to this in the first place, a meme I know you’ve mentioned before but which struck a note with me just now what with lockdown, travel restrictions, and worries about the expected second spike in infections. As Anne mentions above, September is #WorldKidLit Month and an ideal time to travel through the pages of a book or three.

      And as I think you commented to me on your original post, it might be interesting to also see where I have visited and intend to travel to in imaginary worlds in 2020!

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  4. I read reasonably widely, but not as widely as I should. I do tend to spend a lot of time in Russia and France, though I often pop over to Japan too and even some of the South American countries. I’ve read from Egypt but not enough from Africa. As for places rather than authors, I’ve been all over the shop!


    1. That’s a pretty big shop you’ve been all over, Kaggsy, the emporium of emporia! It’s been a while since I spent reading time in either Russia or France, but I think I need to get a few more other stamps in my passport before I return to either place.

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  5. Any travels are worth lauding, Chris – especially in our crazy times! 🙂

    I am baffled as how to count my various literary travels – whether according to the country of author’s origin (or their ancestors, even, or their self-expressed ethnic/national affinities ;)), or rather the countries described by the authors in their novels 😉

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    1. Count them all, surely? Whether you visit the country with a native, somebody with ties to the country, or even a fellow traveller like oneself, surely it’s valid so long as the experience is authentic? (Whatever ‘authentic’ is these days…)

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      1. Well, the recriminations and accusations of cultural appropriation are flying high these days, but I believe we should ignore them and take whatever wisdom we are offered by our fellow travellers and guides from around the world 😀

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        1. I’m waiting for the accusations of cultural appropriation in extraterrestrial thrillers and planetary operas, not to mention depictions of elvish populations, the fairy realm and the Little People.

          Perhaps it’s already happened? but if not that would be a great plot for a novel, no? — hauntings and curses visited on an author who dares to write about the Otherworld and its inhabitants (after all, they don’t have Twitter and Facebook at their disposal, do they?).

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  6. Quite salutary to take stock. My reading in the last few months has been overwhelmingly English, ranging from Wilkie Collins to Ali Smith. One Irish writer Colin Toibin, several Americans and whew, thank Goodness, one French, Annie Ernaux.

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    1. To an antipodean like unto thy good self surely literary visits to this septic isle count? And if they include short breaks in adjacent countries like Ireland and France that can’t be bad! 🙂


  7. I’ve just finished travelling the world through books in the Around the World in 80 Books challenge. When I started, I thought I’d read lots of books in translation, written by indigenous authors, but in the end probably more than half turned out to be books written by Brits about far away places. I guess it’s being used to the British style of writing, culture and language that makes them, for me, more enjoyable to read on the whole. I’m currently trying to decide whether to challenge myself to travel further afield in literature in my next round of Classics Club books, or simply snuggle back into the English classics I love best… don’t tell my fellow Scots I said that!

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    1. I promise not to repeat the heresy you mention, FF … but you do remind me that it’s been awhile since I knowingly read a Scottish author (I’m ashamed to admit I stalled on the first collection of Scotland Street stories after beginning them on a short break in Edinburgh). Ho hum. I shall presently potter off to peruse my shelves…

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  8. Well, I just tried a novel by George Mackay Brown, I gather he’s a famous Scotsman. Maybe try him?

    I’m so glad you are …adjacent to my world reading project! It’s been a lot of fun for me, though it will probably take me forever at the rate I’m going. I know I’ve recently done Greece, India, Japan, and Guinea. I have a pile of maybe ten titles to read through in the future, from Madagascar to Romania. But I can’t read fast enough, sigh.

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    1. I have a longtime friend who was into Mackay Brown way back in the 60s, Jean, though to my shame I’ve never yet tried him, but maybe it’s nearing that moment…

      I know that feeling of not being able to read fast enough, and though I do confess to liking to linger over well written passages and works the sense that time is running out for me to read all the books I not only want to read but also those I don’t yet know I want to read is, well, rather dismaying!


  9. It seems I’ve stayed very much close to home this year so far just based on the country of origin of the authors I’ve read. A lot of Wales and England with a few hops to Ireland but only one to Scotland. I did get to Japan twice though, Norway and North Korea (got out of there quickly!) and USA 11 times. Need to do better than this if I’m to achieve my target of 50 authors from different countries by end of this year.


    1. Still quite a range of countries, Karen — North Korea! Japan! But that’s still a target to aim for, though I suppose it depends on how many you’ve got yet to visit. Because of the twin crises facing the UK this year I’ve gone for a lot of comfort reading, but that shouldn’t really stop me exploring further afield, at least for a sense of staying positive.


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