Bookword in Alsace

I spent the first week of May this year walking in Alsace. I took some reading, heard some excellent stories and came across some bookish things along the way. Here’s one of them, seen on a gatepost on our last day, walking through Ammerschwihr, a village between Turckheim and Kaysersberg.

174 stone girl reading

Reading in Alsace

I planned to read The Erl-King by Michel Tournier in my non-walking hours. It was the only Alsace-related novel I had found that interested me. But I didn’t finish it before my return. This was because

  1. I was also reading the fabulous Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby, and thoroughly immersed in her erudite and fascinating writing about Frankenstein, Innuits, Che Guevara, apricots, the Grand Canyon and other equally engaging topics. Much of her book is about having a voice and the importance telling stories.
  2. I was worn out by walking up and up and down. I needed a wee lie down every afternoon.

I also took with me to read the latest in Peirene’s subscription: Reader for Hire by Raymond Jean. I will finish both these French books very soon and you may find more about them on this blog.

Stories in Alsace

On hearing about the witches of Riquewihr I amused my fellow walkers by exclaiming that the region must be one of the most sexist! The witches’ dispatch was necessary for the quality of the grape harvests, we were told. And the female saints of Alsace, in particular, had a very hard time: St Odile and St Richarde. Both were treated badly by men close to them who should have known better.

174 storks

Storks did rather better than saints. We came across this charming pair of storks in Katzanthal. Their ‘swinging’ habits could have contributed a few episodes to a soap opera. I think this is Marguerite and her new partner Arnold. But it might be Balthazar, her original partner, with her younger replacement, who currently ‘keeps him company’.

174 vineyardsOur walks provided ample stimulus for a storyteller’s imagination: castles, Hansel and Gretel houses, Heidi meadows and dark woods. And if the creativity lagged there was always the wine, the vineyards, the Rhine valley and the people we met along the way.

174 castles

Book Exchange

I nearly missed this delightful book corner in Ribeauville, as I was distracted by grit in both my eyes. But what a delightful and low key way of keeping books in circulation, with the added assistance or forbearance of the French postal service.

174 book box

Walking, Writing and Reading

In a section of her book I read Rebecca Solnit’s thoughts about labyrinths, reading, walking and books:

In this folding up of a great distance into small space, the labyrinth resembles two other manmade things: a spool of thread and the words and lines and pages of a book. Imagine all the sentences in this book. Imagine that they could be unwound; that you could walk the line they make, or are walking it. Reading is also travelling, the eyes running along the length of an idea, which can be folded up into the compressed space of a book and unfolded within your imagination and your understanding. (188-9)

This connection between some of my favourite activities – reading, writing and walking – is most satisfying and a good excuse for a post which is basically about what I did on my holidays!

174 Faraway coverI plan to explore more of Rebecca Solnit’s writing in the next post: Men Explain Things to Me. Meanwhile take this as a rather relaxed recommendation for The Faraway Nearby.

In the Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit. Published by Granta Books in 2014. 254 pp

 

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4 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading, Travel with Books, Writing

4 Responses to Bookword in Alsace

  1. Eileen

    What a very beautiful account and was delightful illustrations. I absolutely adore the sentence:
    Reading is also travelling, the eyes running along the length of an idea, which can be folded up into the compressed space of a book and unfolded within your imagination and your understanding.
    I am going to steal that one. Well done Caroline. Love e x

  2. Helen Ashley

    Thank you, Caroline, for your “What I Did on my Holidays” post – full of fascinating references and lovely photos. I, too, loved the quote from Rebecca Solnit’s “The Faraway Nearby”. I had a quick look at it on Amazon, and decided I have to add it to my ever lengthening reading list (maybe I need a walking holiday that allows me the afternoons free for reading!).
    It was good to see that children featured in both of the art works: the sculpture of a little girl intent on her storybook; and the boy with less than enough limbs to carry all his reading matter. With electronics becoming more and more popular, it’s very important that children should grow up to love real books.
    So when are you going to write the soap opera of the Katzanthal storks?

    • Caroline

      Thanks for picking out the children. Keep them reading is a theme of many of my blogposts. We should keep them reading (‘real’ books) not least because it’s so much fun reading with them.
      Did I give you the impression we had our afternoons off to read on the walking holiday? Not a bit of it. All day walking. The short time between getting back and supper was usually spent having a snooze and a shower. Still reading Erl-King.
      I am planning short stories prompted by what happened to the saints, but not the storks! Thanks for the encouragement, though.
      And for your responses.
      Caroline

  3. Helen Ashley

    Sorry Caroline, I didn’t mean to misinterpret “a wee lie down every afternoon”!
    I may have mentioned before – in my short teaching career, back in the late 1960s, early 1970s, my favourite part of the day was the last 20 minutes, reading stories to my class of infants. I loved doing it, and the rapt attention of the children implied that they loved it too. I do hope the feeling continued through their lives.

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