I love to read, and in 2016 I want to make reading for fun a priority in my life again. With work commitments, school and other things pulling at me from left and right, my reading fell to the way-side in 2015. When I realised that, I decided to make reading a part of my travel journey.
How? By reading books that have something to do with the city (or country) I’m visiting. It can be that the author is from the area, or that the book is set in the city (my preference would be both!). Feel more than free to share book suggestions on my What’s The Plan post, where you can see my planned upcoming trips.
You can also visit my Reading List to see what I’m reading.
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What I Read in the Czech Republic
It was actually quite difficult to find books set in Prague that interested me. The biggest reason for this is simply the lack of available Czech titles in Sweden, but it’s also because a lot of the books I did find were quite dark — I prefer something a bit more uplifting for my fun reading, as much as I like it when books “have a point”.
In the end I settled on two books by the same author, Gustav Meyrink. The copies I have are both in Swedish, which is unusual for me. I tend to prefer to read books in their native language (or in English, as I only really speak Swedish and English) but I couldn’t find any English copies at the library.
Meyrink was interested in the occult, and this is reflected in his stories.
Gustav Meyrink – Golem
The book seems to be a rather convoluted story about a man who lives in the Prague ghetto, I assume around the time it was published in 1914. From what I understand, the book is steeped in myths and has some negative stereotypes I’m not really looking forward to but seems rather interesting as it’s not what you might typically consider a Golem-story, in that the Golem figure isn’t a scary monster come back from the dead.
Gustav Meyrink – Walpurgisnacht
(Walpurgis night; Valborgsmässa in Swedish)
The book is supposedly a novel with interconnecting characters, but several stories at once (at least the two main romantic relationships, such as they are). It too is steeped in myths and legends, all converging on the 30th of April – or Walpurgisnacht.
I began reading Walpurgisnacht on the bus to the airport in Sweden. It was morning; dark and cold. After I checked in and made my way to my gate, I put the book in my bag.
Where it pretty much stayed, except when I had to unpack my bag to reach something at the bottom. I did bring it with me on the bus to Český Krumlov, with the best of intentions. But I didn’t actually read anything, opting instead to listen to music, rest and look out the window.
Only once on my trip did I open my book to read; the night before I left. But I was too tired, and put it back in my bag again – but this time, my purse. On my way home, on the flight, I did read some again.
But I didn’t finish the book, much less start Golem.
So my reading in the Czech Republic was a bit of a fail. I still intend on finishing at the very least Walpurgisnacht – finishing Golem will depend on when I’m going on my next trip, and how much time I need to spend on my university work.
What I’ve read so far though makes me think that Meyrink assumes that whoever reads the books are aware of the myths he’s using, and the land it’s set in – it’s as if he wrote a story for the day he lived in, and didn’t even consider that someone might read the book in another country a 100 years later. Which is rather common to the era and both fascinating and slightly frustrating.
So what did I learn?
1. Though I’m a quick reader, and it’s nice to have something to read in transit, I should probably limit myself to one book only.
2. Read before I leave; at the very least half the book, so I don’t have to start it on my journey. This might not always be possible, but if I can I should do my best to read the book before I leave — if I do, I might even be able to read two books per city, and not have to limit myself to just the one.
Edited February: I finished reading Walpurgisnacht the day I had to return it to the library (in fact, I read the last part at the library). It was… odd. It was written in a very old style, and I’m not sure if it was the translation from Czech that was faulty or the sentences really were a bit disjointed but I often found myself not sure what it was I had read. The sentences are long (again, not sure if that’s a Swedish thing) and though I’m used to old English and old Swedish, it was a bit of a pain. And to be honest, the story itself wasn’t gripping enough – if it weren’t for the fact that I *had* to finish it to “complete the challenge” I set for myself, I would probably not have finished it.
I also returned Golem, but might check it out again at a later date – it’s supposed to be his most acclaimed book, and I might be more willing to suffer through the writing style for the story. But it’s not light reading; not because the subject matter in Walpurgisnacht is heavy (though it’s listed in Sweden as “horror”, it’s not scary at all so take it with a grain of salt) but because of the language.