Welcome to Travel Readings
Melbourne: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
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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
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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

Haiti: An Aroma of Coffee and Dining with the Dictator by Dany Laferrière and The Comedians by Graham Greene

Since a few years, I have been making a few quick trips to Haiti. My visits are limited to Port-au-Prince, the capital city, but the cultural shock offered by this city reached by air in a little bit more than one hour from Miami is so fascinating that I would love to discover more of the country. I like the atmosphere of the restaurants, like the Brasserie Quartier Latin where I like sipping a rum punch while enjoying the varied and talented musical scene.

Port-au-Prince, Haïti. Quartier de Carrefour, road traffic. 20/11/2003

« The Comedians » by Graham Greene is the first book I was recommended and I read about Haiti. I love this writer and I greatly enjoyed this novel. Three foreign expatriates are tangled in a series of political intrigues, arm deals and extra-marital affairs during the darkest hours of the Duvalier dictatorship and the infamous Tontons Macoutes. As often with Graham Greene, who has a fondness for failed characters, it’s possible to read the novel at two levels: the thriller itself, and at a second level, the reflections that the characters make on themselves.

As much as I like Graham Greene, I also wanted to discover the country through the eyes of an Haitian author. Dany Laferrière is a Haitian-Canadian writer. He was recently elected to the Académie Française. His first novel “How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired » has a catchy title and made him famous but it takes place in Québec. Since then, he has published several stories in which he remembers his childhood and youth in Haïti. « An Aroma of Coffee (L’odeur du café) » is the first in that series. I read with a lot of pleasure this collection of very short stories or cameos which follow each other smoothly and take place in Petit-Goâve, a small town not too far from Port-au-Prince. At the age of ten, the author lived there with Da, his grand-mother, who would spend the day sitting down under the gallery outside her house and would offer a cup of coffee to the people passing by. We end up discovering the life of this coastal town, its family tales and the voodoo stories. And we follow the boy as he is growing up, attending local soccer games without paying a ticket, sneaking into his school at night to prank one of the teachers but being caught, or falling in love, for the first time, with the beautiful Vava.

In « Dining with the Dictator » (don’t ask me how and why this is the translation of the original French title « Le goût des jeunes filles »), Dany Laferrière remembers when he was fifteen and the week-end during which he took refuge in an apartment across the street from his home as he thought he was pursued by a Tonton Macoute. The flat serves as headquarters for a group of young girls a few years older than him. Pasqualine, Marie-Michèle, Miki, Choupette and the others come from all strata in the Haitian society, from the slums to the very exclusive bourgeoisie in Pétionville. While in the flat, they never stop quarrelling, but at night, they unite to tour the bars and the clubs in the city and have the men – respectable married men or young gangsters – dancing to their tune. The young boy observes with astonishment this carousel not knowing whether the girls are to be envied or pitied. Until he himself is invited to taste and enjoy the charms of one of them.

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