Last year in Buenos Aires, I read José Saramago's Blindness. I had gone to South America with Blindness, some Borges and some DeLillo. By the time I finished Blindness, I didn't want to read anything other than Saramago for the rest of my trip. I searched all the book stores I could find in the city for English translations of his work to no avail. I then had a mini-career crisis in South America when I realized I wanted to study everything in the world. Languages, physics, linguistics, fashion, architecture, politics. I still love literature, and when I have a plan, I don't like to stray from it, so I resolved my crisis by sticking with lit but broadening my area of interest from contemporary American to contemporary global. Shockingly drastic, I know. But seriously, I was leaving behind an entire world of incredible literature before for the sake of specificity of study. Blindness opened my eyes [shut up, bad joke].
My point is, reading while traveling is amazing. I will always remember the books I've read in the places I read them. This makes choosing the right books for traveling a little difficult. I do belief in the serendipitous nature of literature. That the right words find you at the right times. But suggestions can't hurt. And suggestions do by no means constitute a review. I wouldn't want Charles Baxter ripping me a new one. Anyway...
Book Suggestions for R Who is Traveling to Europe:
Blindness. José Saramago. Hi. Do I really have to say more about this?
The God of Small Things. Arundhati Roy. Coming soon to a mailbox near you. If there's any other book that understands the world the way I do, it's this one.
Everything Is Illuminated. Jonathan Safran Foer. This is actually a tough one. Wanna read a book that takes place in eastern Europe while you're in eastern Europe? Cause that'd be fancy. This book was hard for me to get into because the first twenty or thirty pages read like the old stories the rabbis used to tell us at summer camp. Like the one about the coins and the oil and the water. The ones with morals about fairness and loss and love. But the struggle of the first chapters is worth it. Please. Trust me. It's premium.
Borges. Anything. A collection of short stories. Ficciones. Because you've always loved ingenius narrative innovation and I don't know why I never thought of this before.
Salman Rushdie? Maybe The Satanic Verses. If you want something more linguistically challenging. This one's a pretty big investment, but the language is outstanding.
And you can never go wrong with Kundera. I know people who would punch me for saying that, but I stand by that man always for his beautiful understanding of the most important things.
[And if only there were a way of communicating with the person you love that didn't involve your writing or the writing of certain wonderful authors. I wish someone would have invented airplanes. Or telephones. Or solutions to the most complicated problems in the universe.]