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

Israel and Palestine: To the End of the Land by David Grossman and Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh

Michèle and Arnaud recently made a trip to the « Holy Land », i.e. Israel and Palestine and asked me for reading suggestions. Two best-sellers are still very popular and I let you discover them in case you don’t know or have somewhat forgotten them.


For a more recent perspective, I decided to read one novel written by an Israeli and one by a Palestinian author as a way to keep a balance and observe the contrasts.

As an Israeli novel, I read « To the End of the Land » by David Grossman. It is a very powerful book which describes Ora’s trip by foot in the Galilee. She walks to avoid the possibility that the army comes to announce her the death of her son Ofer who had to serve a few extra weeks for a special mission at the end of his military service. It’s Sami, her usual taxi driver, an Arab, who brings her from Jerusalem to Tel-Aviv and then to the Northern end of the country. Her walking companion is Avram, a former lover with whom she served during the Yom Kippur War.



During their walk, they slowly evoke their common memories. She also tells him about her family: her husband Ilan who just left her and their two sons, Adam and Ofer. Ofer who told her that as a soldier, his job was to search the Arabs at the check points, so that if they were hiding bombs, he would have it explode with him rather than in the midst of civilians in the city.

This book reminds us of the weight carried by the Israeli society in which since decades all children, boys and girls, do several years of military service in actual war situations. As Ora said: « I always think: This is my country, and I really don’t have anywhere else to go. Where would I go? Tell me, where else could I get so annoyed about everything, and who would want me anyway? But at the same time, I also know that it doesn’t really have a chance, this country. It just doesn’t. Do you understand? ».


The book is even more moving when we know that, as he was writing the last pages of the novel, David Grossman lost his son Uri in the explosion of an anti-tank rocket during his military service.


Uri Grossman

On the Palestinian side, I read « Wild Thorns » by Sahar Khalifeh. The young Usama (the book was published in Arabic in 1976, in tempore non suspecto), comes back from the Gulf countries to his native town in the West Bank near Nablus. For this he needs to go through the humiliation of the Israeli check-points. He comes back to take part in the underground fight for Palestine’s Liberation. But he doesn’t recognize the occupied city. His old uncle might still pretend to be the intellectual conscience of the Palestinian cause, but Adil, his son and Usama’s cousin, unbeknownst to his father, has stopped exploiting the family domain in order to go work for an Israeli factory that pays better.


sahar-khalifaUsama is probably in love with his cousin Nuwar, who in turn admires a jailed freedom fighter, but nevertheless seems ready to accept a marriage arranged by her family.  But Usama ends up joining the armed fight, even if this means shooting on bus driving Palestinian workers to their factory in Israel.


Sahar Khalifeh describes with subtlety the dilemmas facing the Palestinians under the Israeli Occupation. Their compatriots in exile, together with the entire Arab world are clamoring for resistance and confrontation.  But they are not the ones who need to provide for their families on a daily basis. They are not the ones dealing every day with the Israeli occupiers: the soldiers patrolling the streets, the bosses and colleagues in the factory. Some are arrogant and brusque, but others end up compassionate, like in this scene in which prison guards cry when a prisoner is reunited with his son he hasn’t seen for years.



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