Wanderlust ? There’s nothing quite like books to escape reality. While pictures speak a thousand words, stories give us details that a picture can’t. Even if we are coming out slowly of the COVID-19 lockdown, some of us cannot travel or decided that they won’t for the time being. Don’t fret, we have a suggestion of books to make you travel vicariously.
The icon of the “Beat Generation”, “On the Road” is a mix of stories, mainly autobiographical, telling the adventures of Sal Paradise (Kerouac himself) who gets convinced by Dean Moriarty (Kerouac’s friend Neal Cassady) to hit the road. By bus, cars, driving themselves or hitchhiking, they travel across post-war America (and even a bit of Mexico) on different occasions against a backdrop of jazz, sex, drugs and the search for the meaning of life. And always, “the road” is calling. If you love road trips, this book comes highly recommended.
And for those who want to follow Sal Paradise’s footstep, there’s even a Google Map gathering all of his trips.
The full title, ” The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga”, says it all! The book recalls Sylvain Tessons’s extraordinary experience of spending 6 months between winter and spring, alone, in a rustic and remote cabin along Lake Baïkal. This diary was a huge success in France where it won the “Prix Medicis for essays”, a prestigious award. Mixing description of his daily life, his exploration of his environment, beautiful description of Siberia and the kind of philosophical thinking and hindsight that living alone can bring, Sylvain Tesson takes us with him, in the intimacy of his isolation. And frankly, who never dreamed of spending some time in a cabin the woods?
The experience of a journalist witnessing the process of decolonization and beyond, this is the point of “The Shadow of the Sun”. For decades, since 1957 when he first arrived in Ghana, this Polish journalist traveled through many African countries. Trom the equatorial jungle to the sands of the Sahara, he talked and lived with people from different walks of life from the most powerful, to the poorest. His journalistic style explains things plainly and gives us insights into forces that shaped some triumphs and the many tragedies (civil war in Liberia, the Rwandan genocide…) in Africa. But most importantly, it’s the vitality and joy of people he met and the beauty of Africa that sticks out.
It’s 1983 and Fabienne Verdier is a 22-year-old artist, fresh out of art school. Fascinated by Chinese art, she decided to leave everything behind to go study at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. She will spend ten years there, trying to convince the artists who survived the Cultural Revolution to teach her their traditional pictorial and calligraphic art. She will become the first Western woman to get a post-graduate degree in art from this university. The Dragon’s Brush is not only an artistic journey but also a stark depiction of what it was like to live in a provincial town when China had not yet opened up: the heavy presence and hassles of the bureaucracy, dealing with repression, the harsh living condition… It is a clash of cultures but also a mutual taming.