Friday, June 28, 2013

Five notable books on unusual journeys

Christopher Clark is a professor of modern European history and a fellow of St. Catharine's College at the University of Cambridge, UK.  His latest book is The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914.

For the Wall Street Journal, Clark named five top books about unusual journeys, including:
by Franz Kafka (1927)

In this strange, unfinished novel, the author, who never traveled to America, imagines a journey to New York and into the deep West. The narrative opens with a characteristic mishap: Gazing in awe from the deck of his steamship at the Statue of Liberty, Karl is swept forward by the crowds making for the shore, only to realize that he has left his umbrella down below. Having pushed through the surging crowds and descended into the bowels of the ship, he is drawn into an obscure quarrel between members of the crew. Only at the end of a long first chapter does Karl succeed in coming ashore. In New York, he encounters an unlovely array of pompous clerks, hostile servants and manipulative drifters passing through a dreamlike sequence of perplexing social situations played out in corridors, basements and offices with low ceilings. The book ends with another surreal departure: Having joined the "Nature Theatre of Oklahoma," Karl and a troupe of hopefuls board a train bound for the West: "Only now did Karl understand how huge America was."
Read about another book on Clark's list.

Amerika is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best umbrellas in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue