Random Thoughts: European Book Tour

Political map of Europe from vidiani.com

I’ve been perusing my stack of books that I have yet to read, and have decided that I’m going on another book trip. I enjoyed “holidaying” over the summer via the books I’d bought on recent holidays. As it’s unlikely that I’ll get to Europe for a while (thanks pandemic, thanks Brexit), I thought I’d knock a few titles off the stack that are by European authors and head off on a virtual tour of the continent.

I’ve put together my list. It’s a combination of books I’ve had hanging around for a while, many of them on my Kindle because I often forget that I’ve bought things as e-books, and very recent purchases or subscription titles. My rules, borrowed from a reading challenge I did a few years ago on The Reader’s Room blog, are that I can only cross to another country that shares a border with the one I’m visiting, and I can only make one crossing by sea and one by plane.

  • Sweden – The Polyglot Lovers, Lina Woolff, tr. Saskia Vogel (my review)
  • Lithuania – Vilnius Poker, Ricardas Gavelis, tr. Elizabeth Novickas (Kindle) (my review)
  • Russia – Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol, tr. Donald Rayfield (my review)
  • Poland – Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk, tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones (my review)
  • Ukraine – The President’s Last Love, Andrey Kurkov, tr. George Bird
  • Slovakia – The Equestrienne, Ursula Kovalyk, tr. Julia and Peter Sherwood (Kindle)
  • Czech Republic/Czechia – The Trial, Franz Kafka, tr. Willa and Edwin Muir
  • Austria – The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth, tr. Michael Hofmann
  • Italy – On Literature, Umberto Eco, tr. Martin McLaughlin (Kindle)
  • France – Fatale, Jean-Patrick Manchette, tr. Donald Smith (Kindle)
  • Spain – Oldladyvoice, Elisa Victoria, tr. Charlotte Whittle
  • Portugal – The Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa, tr. Richard Zenith
  • Ireland – Uncle Silas, Joseph Sheridan le Fan (Kindle)
  • England – The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla, various authors

That’s a lot of books, a fair few of them thick ones, so it will definitely take me a while to conclude my European sojourn. I shall endeavour to learn one new fact about each destination or virtually visit one cultural attraction, as though I really am on holiday.

Have you tried to strategically tackle your To Read pile, or are you more of a reader at whim?

13 thoughts on “Random Thoughts: European Book Tour

  1. Wow, I‘ve never tried to plot a course like that. I don‘t know if I have that many varied countries in my TBR pile. Does the book have to be set in that country or does the author need to come from that country? I have to check out your rules…. Fascinating idea, but I don‘t think it would get me very far.

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    1. I’ve gone for the author being from the country, Cathy. I’m not confident that all of the books are set in the author’s country of birth, particularly not the Pessoa, because he was so random a writer! I might be pleasantly surprised as I make my way through the list, though.

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  2. I tried to read Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead while with my daughter and new granddaughter in Spain. It so didn’t work! Here in rainy old Britain, I think I’ll settle into it. Good luck with your ambitious journey.

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    1. No, I imagine it didn’t work! We’ll see how I get on with my trek. It’s a safe bet that I’ll get derailed at some point. At least it’s not a competitive challenge against other readers this time – just against myself.

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  3. I admire your efforts at expanding your world, Jan. I occasionally think I should make efforts to expand my horizons, but I already own so many books that I purchased because I especially want to read them that I always fall back on those.

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    1. There are such a lot of books to choose from, Mary, it’s inevitable that we each choose differently. I’ve always been curious about other countries and books are a cheaper option than travel. And I know that what I end up reading is a drop in the ocean and will always push other books out. I try not to think too hard about it!

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  4. This is a great idea, Jan. Ambitious too. What it tells me me is that the unread books I own are heavily UK/USA centric. I am slowly beginning to expand into more translated fiction but invariably I have to buy/borrow it. I shall follow your journey with interest. Who knows, by the time you’ve finished your literary travels you may be able to travel again for real. (I’m thinking positive.)

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    1. I’m thinking positive, too, Sandra. I really hope that we can go somewhere new to us next year.

      My book stats are heavily skewed to the UK and USA as well. It’s to be expected, I suppose. The thing I like about reading writers from non-Anglophone countries, even though I read in translation, is that there really is a different perspective on the world, and a different way of expressing things that breaks up some of the UK/US monotone.

      I’ve made a good start with my first book and am enjoying the vicarious travel very much!

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