I will never walk El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James).
I prefer to bicycle.
But The Way, a film written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen, is a moving, beautiful, cathartic film, which has inspired people to walk el Camino, the 800-mile trail from the Pyrenees to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where St. James is buried. I recently read a profile of an internet business owner inspired by the film to make the pilgrimage, and I was inspired to rent the movie.
Esevez is not afraid to develop a story slowly yet economically, and the dialogue is realistic, casual, but meaningful. Martin Sheen plays Tom, a stolid, slightly irascible doctor whose son dies on El Camino. Tom feels guilty and wretched, having turned down the chance to walk with his son. Once in France to pick up the body, he decides to make the journey. He doesn’t think of it as a pilgrimage–he is doing it only for his son, and scatters his ashes along the way–but gradually the persistent characters who seem drawn to him form what Kurt Vonnegut would call his karass (a group thrown together who unknowingly do God’s will).
Great acting, beautiful film.
Robert Dessaix’s Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev. I had never heard of Robert Dessaix until I began looking for biographies of Turgenev. This came up at Amazon, and is exactly what I wanted, though I hadn’t known it existed.
Dessaix, an Australian writer, translator, and Turgenev scholar, travels to Baden-Baden, France, and Russia to experience the places Turgenev, once the most famous writer in Russia, lived and wrote about. This may prove to be my most enchanting read of the summer, because Dessaix makes Turgenev comes to life as he describes places and speculates on what makes one know a writer–sometimes an empty place more than a building, as happens to him in France, at Courtevenal, once a castle more like a village.
There was indeed nothing there…
“It was here, not in Baden-Baden or the rue de Douai, but here, where there was nothing left at all, no plaques or busts or ruins or painstaking restorations, that I felt–at last really felt–and here I must tread very carefully to avoid the minefield of necromantic gobbledygook–that I was alive to Turgenev. He had not come alive–I had. And so I laughed.”
Such good reading, more than a biography, more than a memoir, more than a travel book, and I was inspired to read Smoke, though Dessaix admits it is not a very good novel, because it reflects Turgenev’s life in Baden-Baden.
Dessaix makes us feel who Turgenev is.