Welcome to Travel Readings
Melbourne: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Books, Movies and Beyond…
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Washington, DC and New York
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Rome
Rio de Janeiro: Crimes of August (Agosto) by Rubem Fonseca
Istanbul: The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Liège (Belgium): Pedigree by Georges Simenon
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Lisbon
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Cambodia
Hyde Park, Chicago: Ravelstein by Saul Bellow
Paris: Flowers of Ruin and Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Naples
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Tanzania
Sri Lanka: Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
Books, Movies and Beyond… : Venice
Dublin: The Dead by James Joyce
Books, Movies and Beyond: Iran
Santa Cruz, Bolivia: The Matter of Desire (Materia del Deseo) by Edmundo Paz Soldán
Books, Movies and Beyond: Syria
Djibouti: Passage of Tears (Passage des Larmes) by Abdourahman Waberi
Books, Movies and Beyond: Armenia
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: The Parachute Drop by Norbert Zongo
Bangkok: Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Périgord, France: The Caves of Périgord by Martin Walker
Books, Movies and Beyond: Brussels
Naples: The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Books, Movies and Beyond: Rio de Janeiro
Tajikistan: Hurramabad by Andrei Volos
New-York: City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Israel and Palestine: To the End of the Land by David Grossman and Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh
Books, Movies and Beyond: Bavaria and Southern Germany
Cape Town: Boyhood, Youth and Summertime by J.M. Coetzee
Books, Movies and Beyond: India
Blue Ridge Mountains: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Books, Movies and Beyond: Algeria
Austrian Alps: A Whole Life (Ein ganzes Leben) by Robert Seethaler
Books, Movies and Beyond: Africans in America
Zimbabwe: The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers
Books, Movies and Beyond: Colombia
Belgian Ardennes: The All Saints’ Day Lovers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Côte d’Ivoire: Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
Japan: Haruki Murakami and Amélie Nothomb
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Rope and The Denial of Saint Peter by Charles Baudelaire
Books, Movies and Beyond: Cairo
Vancouver: What is Remembered by Alice Munro
Ghent (Belgium): War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
Haiti: An Aroma of Coffee and Dining with the Dictator by Dany Laferrière and The Comedians by Graham Greene
Iceland: Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
Siena and Tuscany : Il Palio delle contrade morte by Fruttero & Lucentini and The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
China : Wild Swans. Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang
Amsterdam: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Former Soviet Union: The Unwomanly Face of War  by Svetlana Alexievich
Provence: The Horseman on the Roof by Jean Giono, La charrette bleue by René Barjavel, Madame de Sévigné and Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp
Moscow: The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère
Books, Movies and Beyond: Vietnam
Books, Movies and Beyond: The Wars in Vietnam

Books, Movies and Beyond: Brussels

Recently Brussels was cowardly attacked by terrorists. This is the city where I was born and grew up. I propose a brief and personal tribute to this very attractive city that I cherish. I know many of the blog’s readers from are also from Brussels, so don’t hesitate to share your preferences (books, comics, movies, songs). Jacques Brel’s songs are among my best memories of Brussels. They marked my teenage years. He has a song entitled “Bruxelles (Brussels)”, but I prefer “Mon Enfance (My Childhood)”.


Another song by Brel which immortalizes Brussels is “Madeleine”. A young man is waiting for Madeleine, lilacs in hands, hoping to get on the 33 streetcar and eat fries together at Eugene’s. But she is not coming and it’s raining on the lilacs. A song allowing me a tender wink to my mother. For each song, I provide two links: one to the original in French with English subtitles and one to an English adaptation from the musical “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”. But he grew up in Brussels!


Le Siège de Bruxelles” by Jacques Neyrinck (« Brussels’ Siege » – not available in English) is an anticipation novel which I read with pleasure and a little smile shortly after its publication in 1996. The events take place in 2007: Belgium has become a failed state with the monarchy as ultimate bulwark. An authoritarian party dominates the Northern part of the country – Flanders – and would like to swallow Brussels, the capital city with a large Muslim ghetto. The conflict erupts and the European Union, stretched between its Germanic and Latin members, is trying to remain at the helm, while Asian NGOs are taking care of the wounded. Prescient? Not exactly, but (re-)reading the book in light of the recent events should be interesting.




Expo 58” by the excellent British novelist Jonathan Coe brings us inside the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, a golden age when Belgium was happy. The Atomium is seen through a British lens since the hero, Thomas Foley, whose mother is Belgian, is sent to keep an eye on the Britannia, the English pavilion’s pub. It looks like a spy novel at the heart of the Cold War, it sometimes sounds like a romance. But with a fine dose of humor, we end up, beyond the false ingenuity of the charming Belgian hostesses, with a brilliant novel about missed opportunities.


Brussels is of course one of the cradles of the comic strip culture and I am a big fan of many Belgian authors. But many comic strips heroes travel around the world, like Tintin. So, if I need to pick one typical comic strip from Brussels, my vote goes to « Quick & Flupke » by Hergé: two Brussels kids and their shenanigans pursued by the neighborhood’s police officer #15, representative of an old school police with a casual approach (maybe too casual some will say after the recent attacks…).


Brussels: Old England

Brussels: Old England

If you liked Brel’s streetcar # 33, « Quick & Flupke » gentle cops, then you will also have liked the “Formidable” clip by Stromae in the early morning drizzle at the Louise roundabout in central Brussels. You won’t be alone: 140 million You Tube views and counting. The opportunity for me to take my hat off to Brussels and its artists. Any other Brussels’ favorites? Muriel suggested the song « Bruxelles » by Dutch singer Dick Annegarn. I had heard of it, but didn’t know it very well. It’s very nice.



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