by Cygne Sauvage
I was barely out of my secondary school when I “visited” Nepal, a country I‘ve been briefly made aware of by my world history subject. The so-called sojourn was on my mind courtesy of the compelling book The Mountain is Young by Han Suyin. From China’s celebrated author’s work of fiction, I learned much about the culture, the people as well as the locale’ Kathmandu, the capital town and where the story unfolded. The novel carried me to the depths of the Himalayas and put me in a trance, swooning over the magical place as well as the main protagonist Unni Mennon, an engineer. Had it not been for Suyin’s prolific pen I would not have been able to reconnoitre the landscape of Chomolungma, the highest peak in the world which foreign intruders named as Mount Everest.
Though an actual physical presence is the best option, we have to accept limitations to travelling. Even the most peripatetic, jet-setting zillionaire equipped with modern aeronautical gadgets could not possibly penetrate every desirable nook and cranny of the globe. On the other hand, budget challenged globe trotters can only save as much for certain choice places to explore and unwind. Perhaps this is the reason for having a bucket list of places to behold.
I navigated the dark waters of Venice canals through the investigative exploits of Donna Leon’s fictional hero Commissario Guido Brunetti. Meanwhile, though the plots are not so alluring, what I found enjoyable in Dan Brown’s novels are the vivid descriptions cum extensive historical background of the terrestrial sites his protagonist Robert Langdon has been dragged into by the cases he has on hand to solve. In fact, in his book Inferno, the author seems to have veered too much from the main gist of the novel with his absorbing characterization of Istanbul. All the other works of Dan Brown that I have taken time to read feature major geographical briefing: The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol.
Compared to a film whose advantage is presenting a panoramic visual of the place, a book’s edge is that it offers tons of information which the vista in the movie does not offer. A viewer definitely will fancy the pristine waters of Bermuda or Cayman Islands in James Bond flicks, but the detailed chronicles of the lush greenery of British countryside, such as in Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, or the bustling Curacao in John Le Carre’s The Night Manager cast more potent impact on a peruser’s psyche, as well as add greater improvement on one’s erudition.
I traversed the chaotic roads to Cambodia via the novel The Sympathizer, during the height of the Vietnam war, a sight that has been erased by modernization. Being transported back to places long lost in time is another plus point to reading a book.