Where the hell are we now?
For as long as I can remember I’ve kept an atlas on hand to enhance my reading experience. If a book involves travel, I like to follow those journeys on a map. Even if I’ve never been to the region concerned, it gives me some context, and a deeper sense of connection to the place.
I’ve travelled across India with Arundhati Roy, Rohinton Mistry and Vikram Seth; I’ve crossed America with Jack Kerouac and Anne Tyler; visited Africa with Ben Okri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Barbara Kingsolver; Russia with Dostoyevsky and Turgenev; Japan with Murakami, and Argentina with Tomas Eloy Martinez. I could go on and on. Admittedly I did needlessly spend ages trying to locate Malgudi, the small town featured in many of R.K. Narayan’s stories, which is in fact, fictional – duh!
Reading along with an atlas heightens that feeling that I’ve travelled vicariously, which is good as, alas, I’m no Phileas Fogg. It’s not just a cheap way to travel though, if you follow literary journeys on maps, it’s a good refresher of all that rusty school geography and the next time you get talked into a game of Trivial Pursuit, the blue pies will be yours. All of them.