Who wouldn’t want to sail away to another land? Who wouldn’t wish to explore the heavens when the sky is clear of humanity’s pollution? Writers have been putting together tales of adventure and daring-do now for centuries.
Enya’s singing of Orinoco Flow (Sail Away!) still inspires this writer as I am sure it continues to inspire other writers. I live in the south coast of New South Wales, Australia. I am not one for putting up the sails but I do enjoy the sea in my own particular way. I enjoy fishing and just being out there were you can smell the salt off the waves.
Of the writers hit by the travel bug it is hard to go past Geoffrey Chaucer. He was there when the English language was coming together in a written form that contained French ideas as well as Latin and Greek. He understood the importance of keeping the old Anglo-Saxon traditions going yet bringing across new ideas from overseas. For the grandest example of all this there’s The Canterbury Tales. For a grand Italian example of this sort of thing there’s The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio.
Through these two men of vision story telling in English as we understand English today (Chaucer) and Italian as we understand Italian today (Boccaccio) began. Middle English Chaucer style is difficult to read but it can still be read by people today even though most of us prefer a modern translation of a work so large and impressive as his The Canterbury Tales.
Possibly the first recognizable novel that wasn’t simply a large poem or an assortment of short stories roped together was Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – a tale about being shipwrecked and discovering new vestiges of one’s own humanity. It has long since been condemned as having elements of racism but it still stands up in the literary world as a grand experiment in writing of the time.
In Spain Don Quixote came into being for the public in 1605 (book one) and then in 1615 (book two). The author, Miguel de Cervantes, had traveled and because he had he was able to instill in his major work much of his experience of the world at this time. The Middle Ages had come to an end and with it the illusion of knight inspired chivalry. Even so, people still clung to the dream of chivalry and to send this up Cervantes created a wonderful madman who saw the would not the way it was but, according to chivalry, the way it should be. Personally, I prefer the second book to the first because there’s more action and less explanation. Regardless, Don Quixote has been published in just about every European language and there have been at least on musical and successful movie made about this tilter of windmills.
Mark Twain made much of a river journey in his famous and also rather infamous American novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This is a book about freedom and the right to be free. It was once banned in the American south. In recent times it has come under attack because of some of the period language used but academics that know their business have defended it. Also it has been defended some time ago by the writers and cast of the American sit-com, Family Ties and by those responsible for the 1997 movie, Pleasantville. Next time you view Pleasantville do look for a visual reference to Mark Twain and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Its there along with other most excellent works that were once banned by small minded people.
Lewis Carroll in the 19th Century took his readers on a number of weird and wonderful journeys with his Alice books. And yes there was a real Alice. It is said that the Alice books began in a boat on a river in England where Carroll was entertaining a group of children with the strangest of tales. He was urged to write down the unfolding tale that became Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. After these adventures in Wonderland were published they caused a sensation thus prompting the second Alice book. Modern surrealism was born with these books though the term was yet to be coined. Also the tale of the Jabberwocky with its nonsense words came to show just how versatile sound was and also how powerful language can be in the right creative hands.
In the 1930s in there was high adventure in the pulps. For mystery there was H.P.Lovecraft and for Sword and Sorcery there was Robert. E. Howard. For scientific wonders and adventure in numerous countries there was Doc Savage.
Today adventure can be found in the printed and ebook works of Terry Pratchett (U.K.), Peter David (USA) and Terry Dowling (Australia.) Also do check out Desk Job by Rod Marsden.