Holiday Reading

My European sojourn is fast approaching, and while I haven’t planned as much as I hoped there is one facet of my trip I intend on plotting carefully.

Holiday reading.

I’ve decided to embrace that kind of embarrassing image of a tourist reading a cliché on paper – For example, reading “The Year of Living Dangerously” in Indonesia, or “Istanbul” by Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul.

So I need three books for my three primary destinations. After a minute or so of thought I’ve got some early contenders, but I’m open to suggestions.

Italy – The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco

France – (open to suggestions)

Germany – Stasiland, Anna Funder

My selections are weighted heavily towards what’s been on my ‘to read’ list for a while and what’s already on the book shelf.



23 thoughts on “Holiday Reading

  1. Meaghan

    You could give Almost French a go? Although I’m thinking you’ve already read it, and probably after something a little more high brow.
    You could read the recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 1?

  2. Sarah Fortuna Post author

    Yep, I read that when it was being sold off as the other travel book to read once you’d read “holy cow”. I have no idea how anyone could have paired those books, but the marketing worked a treat.

    I did recently start reading a super-duper cheesy book with one of those awful cartoon covers about some woman in Paris whose life was a mess (but I assume she figured it all out by the end) – so I’m definitely not opposed to low-brow. Esp because it’s going to be a challenge to get through a book a week. I need something light in there to keep the pages turning.

  3. Josh

    This is heavy in the sense of rich and confronting and very powerful, but certainly it has a lot to do with France, and a lot to do with the current problems of our world.. ‘The Need for Roots’, by Simone Weil. .. and if you want me to say more about it I can.. I even have a prepared longer comment!

  4. DavidA

    I once read a story about Umberto Eco appearing at a James Joyce Symposium one year wearing a badge that said I like Proust! Now, Proust might be a bit of a hefty read to finish in a week, and indeed it is quite possible to spend an entire day reading a single sentence by the man named Monsieur Marcel who wrote some really rather staggeringly long literature that was so long that the reader may be said to finish the sentence long before Proust does since he did rather have a habit of building up words into massive elongated rivery clausefilled sentences that most sensible people just don’t have the time to read in the time they have to spare from the general daily tasks such is feeding cats, children, budgies or hamsters, so perhaps Proust is not the one to read in France.

  5. Lara

    A room with a view for Italy is my recommendation it’s small, easy to read, a classic and just generally great. In the name of the rose is an amazing story but it took me weeks of serious reading to get through. I’m with Meaghan on the France vote – it’s an awesome book. But Germany? – I don’t have anything…

  6. Sarah Fortuna Post author

    I read A Room With a View a few million years ago Lara, so I could probably do a reread and it’s just the kind of thing I’m after. If I can find it on the shelf then it’s the official choice.

    Yvonne, Suite Francaise – great suggestion! I’ll track down a copy.

    David, reading a 50 page essay by Proust on a slow bus ride in Bangkok nearly killed me. I’m not ashamed to admit that in a battle with Proust, he won hands down.

  7. DavidA

    I would say that the ideal conditions in which to read Proust would be over a bottle Château Margaux 1961 on a lonely rainy evening at a café frequented by noted Parisian bloggerati.

    I’ve never actually read In Remembrance of Lost Time Regained, though it’s been on my “to-do” list for about nine years (I don’t get many things done to be honest). I just downloaded the original English translation from Project Gutenberg Australia, putting all seven volumes into a single 7 megabyte text file. I could email it to you if you like.

  8. DavidA

    Funnily enough, Margaux gets a mention in the book:

    “It is called strawberry mousse,” said Mme. Verdurin. “But it is ex-qui-site. You ought to open bottles of Château-Margaux, Château-Lafite, port wine.” (somewhere after the middle)

  9. DavidA

    Not sure if I’ll ever read it properly, but I’m finding it very interesting to search through the entire book for specific words. I found a reference to a drinking place called Weber(‘s), located on Rue Royal in Paris:

    “Weber’s, that’s in the Rue Royale; that’s not a restaurant, it’s a drinking-shop. “

    I’m pretty sure that this is the same place that James Joyce and his friends went to in the evening on the day that Ulysses was published in February 1922, it gets mentioned in Richard Ellmann’s biography of Joyce, page 525.

    The exact address of the place was 21 Rue Royal apparently. There seems to be some kind of crockery/cutlery company there now:

    Lastly, I found a poem that mentions the place:

    I say to Monsieur Léo,
    Rue Royale, Taverne Weber,
    Without speaking up too
    Loudly – you’ve filled my soul with fire.

  10. Kat

    Oops just realised I posted while logged in under some random log in. Anyhoo, I meant to add I read Eco’s Baudolino while on trains in Italy, not just on random trains.

  11. DavidA

    Mention of Bruges:

    “You can’t imagine what exquisite poetry there is in her. She goes every year to spend All Souls’ Day at Bruges.”

  12. Sarah Fortuna Post author

    Thanks Kat. I have images of you reading Eco on the Broadmeadows and Hurstbridge lines.

  13. DavidA

    Re: The Silence of the Lambs, yet more Remembrance of Things Past:

    She felt that uneasy sense of a physical mystery which makes us ask ourself whether the neighbour with whom we have been on friendly terms is not tainted with cannibalism.

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