I cannot travel anymore – books for short trips

I cannot travel anymore – books for short trips

‘I cannot travel anymore’ would be the next book to read. I would read it within a day or two: as long as a short trip for work usually lasts, or equal to the free time saved for reading when away for longer (work/duty) trips. It is a good title; a statement that shocks in real life. People ask immediately why. What to give as main reason: the physical strain (including the recovery time that becomes longer and longer), the shattering sense of loneliness among familiar faces (never managed to beat this one), the dislike of hotel rooms with their zombie tidiness, the limiting of the vital space within the frames of a suitcase and a crummy airplane seat, the food mostly under the acceptable standard (note: I like simple food), the goodbyes to loved ones, the current readings that must stay at home because of their volume and weight.

‘I cannot travel anymore’ does not exist as book title yet. I’ve had to do with other (more imaginative) titles, this recent period.

Here is a short selection of five:
A General Theory of Oblivion (2015, in EN) by Jose Eduardo Agualusa, an Angolan writer, famous (of what I read) and really special in his writing style and story building. I bought the book at Eason in Dublin; read it that evening sitting in my dorm bed and at the airport the next day before returning home.
The last days of New Paris (2016) by China Mieville, an English writer of fantasy fiction but also of history related to Marxism and the October revolution; here dealing with Surrealism and its role in history, with artists and Nazis in exploding encounters. I bought the book at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on my way to Athens; read it during the trip and one night in the Athenian heat of August (air-co on of course).
Swing Time (2016) by Zadie Smith, an English writer famous enough not to need introductions I think. This one is about the inevitable crashing of lives no matter what the predictions or the first indications might be. But, open as an artwork, others have read in it tales about friendship and such which is indeed the first level of the story. I bought it also at Schiphol airport on my way to Marrakech for a conference job; read it there and then in between work, dinners, talks, and through hours of sleeplessness.
Batavia’s Graveyard (2002) by Mike Dash, a Welsh writer of history. This is a scholarly publication with 100 pages of annotations and a full bibliography; yet an absolute page turner. It is the story of the Dutch ship ‘Batavia’ that left Holland in 1628 and shipwrecked a few months later onto a group of islands off the Australian west coast. The mutiny that followed, the killings, the living conditions on and off the ship(s), the scum of the earth that manned the East India ships and populated the colonies, and the retribution by the authorities: exciting by itself and told by a fantastic writer, all into it! I bought the book at the American Bookstore in The Hague and read it on my way to Kassel; a road trip this one.
The Red and the Black (1830) by Stendhal, the classic 19th century French writer, yes. Where did this come from, one would wonder. Well, apart from doing a refresh of early readings, I wanted to read through a good account of ambition and hypocrisy, together with love affairs with a purpose, horrendous (real) love entanglements, and the all-time hopelessness of those lacking social/cultural/financial capital. I bought it online and read it somewhere between Athens and Amsterdam. Though reading it in English was difficult, I found, cause the long sentences of the French language sound awkward in  English, the tone was well transferred.

Since the fall of Napoleon, all appearance of gallantry has been severely barred from provincial manners. There is fear of being deprived of one’s post. The scoundrels seek the support of the Congregation; and hypocrisy has made most wonderful progress even in the liberal ranks. Boredom redoubles itself. There remain no other pleasures but reading and agriculture. [p. 52]

P.S. Dedicated to all those who travel more than often, with admiration for their physical strength.

highway_dream_rain_web
‘Highways and a dream: on wet roads’, oil on canvas, 100 x 150 cm, 2015

 

 

 

 

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Dublin in lost mode

Dublin in lost mode

You know that a city is a welcoming place when you can enjoy a long walk in lost mode without much; not afraid to take the wrong turn; no (terribly) wrong street to step foot on nor too long a distance to deal with.

Dublin is such a welcoming place: in the centre, despite the hordes of tourists (with the drunkenness and whatever else that often brings in the need for paramedics), in the high neighbourhoods with the coloured Georgian doors and the classy galleries, and just the same in the working class streets where you smell and see in full: open air food markets, small eating places, basic shops of anything, people doing their thing and letting you be.

No, I am not idealizing it as it is not a harmless joyful city; the word ‘disparity’ is here again more than obvious, just like in most of our cities; soup for the poor and homeless, high art for the delicate souls. Still, Dublin manages to keep it down to earth (no lepricorns  here).

The deep green colour is beautiful and heart breaking; the soups have a distinct blunt taste as if grandma made them (delicious); the dark beer flows and the rain falls whenever it pleases, and you can count the drops one by one.

 P.S. Getting lost with a smart phone in your hand is the easiest thing, trust me!

Dublin_rain

 

4 hours in Zurich: art and coffee on tight budget

Zurich is a fantastic place to be stranded for a few hours, but you must make a plan before you go off into town, especially if your budget is tight. I had decided not to spend more than forty euro, which is the same amount in Swiss francs; but did want to see some art…

The cancellation of my connecting flight and its replacement with an evening flight left me with a frown at first; then I picked up my 3 hour sleep energy, put my hand luggage in a locker and went out to see Zurich. It was a winter’s day with dry cold and grey light, but no wind nor rain, perfect for walkers. From the airport I took the train to the city, a little ten minute ride. I was most kindly informed at the airport desk to buy a day ticket that would serve for the train and for all public transport into town: ticket about 14 francs, locker 6 francs for 12 hours storage; half of my budget was spent before making a move.

Once off the train and walking with a tram map in my hands, I had to orient myself: tower at the left, man on scooter, stoplight, Christmas market, train rails; I should cross and be at the other side. Not sure of distances, I took the first tram that would bring me to the Kalkbreite building complex which opened a few months ago. They advertise it as an urban experiment; this was enough to attract me, a 100% city person. The complex has an elevated common central yard with a playground and stairs that lead to a higher level with view to the city and to the complex itself. There are community places (with common dining room with chef), cluster houses (with some shared rooms), office and cultural spaces. Connecting requirements include keeping energy consumption low and not owning a car. It was too early in the  morning even for a coffee at the Houdini film house, so I took the tram towards the other side of the river Limmat.

Kalkbreite urban experiment - Zurich
Kalkbreite urban experiment – #Zurich

I had to choose fast between contemporary art from Japan in “Logical Emotion” and the exhibition “Egon Schiele-Jenny Saville” at Kunsthaus. I went for the second; Schiele could not fail me. The ticket was 16 francs, with reduction, and free audio-guide which I switched off after the first two works. Schiele’s paintings and drawings deserved some active response from my side; a real painter this one, color and line with accuracy. Seen as a total, the exhibition makes once more obvious what a difficult art painting is and even more how easy it is to fall into lies and effects. Artists have been too eager to give away painting… After this, I walked upstairs to the permanent collection, the “classic illustrated” as I call them. What can one feel walking among Giacometti’s, Dubuffet’s, Rothko’s, Matisse’s, etc. and then further deep into history through Canaletto’s, Rubens’s, van Dyck’s, etc. The rooms were too stuffy and the walk too long for my strengths. On the ground floor there were those dark rooms with a presentation by the Venezuelan artist Javier Téllez called “Shadow Play”. I entered without expectations but stayed, legs resting on a bench, to watch two lengthy films. This is an extract from “Artaud’s cave”, one of his art films included in this presentation:

Taking the way back to the train station and the airport, I had to find the place where the dadaists were gathering in the ’10’s of our 20th century. I went by tram, found it and photographed it; what else could I do, make up an instant poem? However, they seem to organize poetic evenings in that same building; there is also a shop with dadaist objects in the semi-basement. It was just afternoon; the evening would offer a different view I suppose.

Cabaret Voltaire, the dadaists house - Zurich
Cabaret Voltaire, the dadaists house – #Zurich

My time was up, my money too; I had to go back to collect my stuff and wait for the flight. Zurich is a good stroll; not a luxurious city, despite the high prices; quiet though busy, safe too. Not to worry if you get stranded for a few hours.

P.S. a kindest young man at the museum café gave me a cup of coffee though my last coins did not make the full 4 francs. Thanks again! #Zurich @Zurich

Walking In the old center of Zurich
Walking in the old center of Zurich

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