Books…Spain and China Travel

Off of Plaza Major in Madrid. (Close by is the cafe that Ernest Hemingway visited often.)

I never know which will come first; the chicken or the egg. Or in my case the travel or the book. Many times I have wished to travel to a place I have read about, But because I am largely a reader of fiction many of the places I have read about do not exist. When Lord of the Rings hit the movie screen I was so excited because I had always wondered how that REALLY looked.

So when I began to travel a great deal after we retired, I loved reading about places we had been, either in fiction or non-fiction form. Driving Over Lemons (biography) is a prime example. Chris Stewart was a drummer for Genesis before he was 17 and then retired, moved to Spain and bought a farm south of Granada. The book’s web site had this to day about Stewart:

Chris Stewart prepared for life on a mountain farm in Spain with jobs of doubtful relevance. After leaving Genesis (he drummed on the first album), he joined a circus, learnt how to shear sheep, crewed a yacht in Greece, went to China for the Rough Guides, gained a pilot’s license in Los Angeles, and completed a course in French cooking. Since writing Driving Over Lemons, Chris, Ana and their daughter Chlöe continue to live on their farm, with their numerous dogs, cats, chickens, sheep and one misanthropic parrot


Driving Over Lemons is a story Stewart wrote about his family’s experiences on the little farm on the wrong side of the river in Spain. If you read it before you go to Spain you will see the Spanish experience in a whole different light. It will tickle your funny bone and warm you heart.

As you know I have travels quite a bit in the far east and so I have taken to reading Amy Tan, Ha Jin, and Gao Xingjian.

Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter (fiction) was a wonderful read that helped me understand the transition of emigrants from China to a USA life style. It captured the essence of life in China during the revolution in the late 1940’s and the life of the first generation American citizen. The understandable conflict between mother and daughter with the added cultural clashes gave Tan a wonderful back drop for her novel. I can recommend it to all of you.

Ha Jin’s book, Waiting , is a book I read a couple of years ago and before I visited China. It was because of this I asked the tour guide in Bejing “Are there any more communes?” The secretive nature of her answer as she leaned from the front seat to my place in the back seat lead me to believe that China has not given them up. She was fearful that our driver might hear what she said. Waiting is a small book but a very good read. It is a personal story but if you read between the lines I think you will learn a lot.

Soul Mountain (ficition) by Gao Xinjian is a mountain of a read. If you will read Robert Nagle in the link I have given you, you will see what I mean. I never quite knew where I was in this book but there was something compelling about the words and the images it evoked. I will want to visit the misty mountain he talks about until my dying day. Xingian was allowed to leave China probably because his inner thoughts did not reflect what the government wanted him to think but who really knows. A lot has changed in the Chinese way of thinking in recent years.

As a final thought I would suggest to you that you never leave a country without visitng a book store. We have found books translated into English even in China. Nothing beats all our wonderful book stores in the US but I think we get a real insight into what people of a country are thinking when we read their books and magazines. Take a year and read nothing but foriegn authors. You will love it!!!

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