Reading and Writing – Passports into History
By Gery de Pierpont
Tune into the dialogue between the ancient walls and the words that bring them alive
I find nothing more captivating than reading a literary work on the actual site that served as its inspiration. Certain historical novels, poems, theatrical dialogues or even philosophical essays have an extraordinary power to whisk us back into another era, immersing us in a forgotten context or drama-ridden atmosphere where humanity is called into question. And the pull is even greater when we are physically present on the site enlivened by such writing.
Conversely, an authentic historical setting breathes life into the words, gives ideas resonance and imbues metaphors with poetry. Flagstones ring with the sound of boots, surfaces flicker into life through moving shadows caused by candle flame, the fragrance of wax polish on antique furniture, enriched with forgotten perfumes …
Some “passport” reading
This is why for each accommodation venue linked to intoHistory, I try and suggest a little reading to help you get the maximum out of your experience on the site so your understanding of it, the way you perceive historical objects and the emotions you experience as night falls will inevitably be heightened.
Please share with us the books you have read which have given you an insight into the realms of history, these written “passports” (in the literal sense) which have transported you back in time through your imagination, or verses which have brought the settings which witnessed historical events back to life. If such works refer to accommodation venues promoted on the intoHistory website, ideally they should be mentioned in the comments section of the site itself, or you can do so below.
Heritage and literature dialogues
For my part, I have every intention of offering you on a regular basis “heritage and literature dialogues” between an historical site (region or era) and an extract from a book where there appears to be special bond between them. It could be a photograph, a text and two hyperlinks; little cultural hors d’oeuvres to excite your curiosity and titillate your imagination. Here are some suggestions already:
- Great Siege of Malta (1565) > “The Religion“, by Tim Willocks (2006)
- Talbot House in WW1 > “A Haven in Hell, Ypres sector 1915-1918“, by Paul Chapman (2000)
- Italian Renaissance > “The Food Taster: The Story of my Incredible Life“, a novel by Peter Elbling (2003)
- WW1 German rear lines > “All Quiet on the Western Front“, by Erich Maria Remarque (1929)
- Rural France > “Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes“, by Robert Louis Stevenson (1879)
- Edinburgh Manor > “Echoes of the Past“, a poem by Sarah Strange (1965)
Do not hesitate to send me texts written by yourselves as well, should inspiration strike you during one of your stays in history: memories of an escape into the realms of the past, a few sentences scribbled on the edge of a tablecloth or taken from a novel abandoned in the bottom of a drawer, a passage taken from your latest play or an anthology of poems entwined in history … I would be delighted to publish such personal creations if they can enhance the experience of others as they immerse themselves in the mysteries of the past.
Historical literature: counting on you
Thank you in advance for your contributions to the development of a new style of voyage of discovery, which is both authentic, invigorating and really off the beaten track! And don’t miss the next heritage and history dialogues soon to be published in these columns.