Today’s post is inspired by my journey to Poland. Here are a couple of my thoughts and observations from the journey, as well as some quotes from the three books I read on the way, which were: Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days.
Going by train in Poland is not for impatient, sensitive ladies. The trains are slow, smelly and dirty. In the summertime they are incredibly hot and in the winter months they can be really freezing. I won’t go into a lot of details about what the toilets look like. But the views and the landscape are worthwhile. Since the trains are slow and old-fashioned, the ride can be rather contemplative as you pass by forests, rivers, fields, small towns and villages. On the way, it is most likely that your train will stop in the middle of nowhere and there’s nothing else to do but to wait and admire your surroundings. This happened to me on this trip as well. After three hours on the train, with the temperature 35ºC inside, the train stopped and didn’t move for some twenty minutes. The windows were wide open. The sun was setting. The air was a little bit cooler outside. There was an overpowering smell of earth and tall grass. I heard the crickets chirping. I gazed out of the window. I waited. The train moved on. After a couple of minutes it sped up. The air hit my face and it was choking. I decided to go back to my seat.
I’ve found it quite difficult to illustrate the three books I’d chosen. I didn’t want to draw a tropical forest for Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a sledge or dogs for London’s The Call of the Wild, or a train for Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Instead, I thought of portraits of the authors. And as I looked at their photographs I realised Jack London seemed dreamy and lost in his thoughts, looking beyond. Joseph Conrad seemed gloomy, disappointed and sad. As for Jules Verne, he seemed cheerful and joyous, and had a boyish look.
There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining the after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Going up the river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once–somewhere–in another existence perhaps.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
A train was ready to start when Mr. Fogg and his party reached the station, and they only had time to get into cars. They had seen nothing of Omaha but Passepartout confessed to himself that this was not to be regretted, as they were not traveling to see the sights. The train passed rapidly across the State of Iowa by Council Bluffs, Des Moines and Iowa City. During the night it crossed the Mississippi at Davenport, and by Rock Island entered Illinois. The next day, which was the 10th, at four o’clock in the evening, it reached Chicago, already risen from its ruins, and more proudly seated than ever on the borders of its beautiful Lake Michigan. Nine hundred miles separated Chicago from New York, but trains run frequently from Chicago. Mr. Fogg passed at once from one to the other, and the locomotive of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway left at full speed, as if it fully comprehended that gentlemen had no time to lose. It raced over Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Jersey like a flash, rushing through towns with antique names, some of which had streets and car-tracks, but as yet no houses. At last the Hudson came into view, and, at a quarter-past eleven in the evening of the 11th, the train stopped in the station on the right bank of the river, before the very pier of the Cunard line. The China, for Liverpool, had started three-quarters of an hour before!
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne