The Fact in Fiction


I am reading this fascinating book, ‘Ghost train to the Eastern Star’ by Paul Theroux. It is about his journey from London, across Eastern Europe, Asia and back. He had travelled this route in the seventies and the account of that journey was in his book, ‘The great Railway Bazaar’. His writing brings all the places alive.

I came across these words and they struck a chord. I was able to really appreciate his feelings, “The topography of Literature, the fact in fiction, is one of my pleasures. I mean where the living road enters the pages of a book, and you are able to stroll along both the real and the imagined road… for the way it shows how imagination and landscape combine to become art… the towns on the Mississippi that are important in Huckleberry Finn.”

These lines reminded me of our trip to London last year. London did not seem like a new place. The names and roads and places are so familiar to us who have grown up reading Charles Dickens or Georgette Heyer or Agatha Christie or Barbara Cartland or Arthur Conon Doyle or Nevil Shute or P G Wodehouse and so many other books. The first week we stayed in Ealing Broadway and that place seemed familiar because Keith Stewart of Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute (one of my favourite books) went on those roads every day.  The British Museum and Hyde Park are an important part of Georgette Heyer books. Many of the roads came alive because of Sherlock Holmes and people in books by Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie and P G Wodehouse. We had been to Oxford, Wimbledon, Greenwich and Hampton Court. Cruising on the Thames, walking on the London Bridge, looking at Buckingham palace were all familiar experiences. London Underground was fun and we really enjoyed ourselves, the names were so familiar because of Monopoly. :))

I had been on the imagined roads countless times. It was fascinating when all those imagined roads became real roads and together they are a part of our lives. They are precious memories. It is equally fascinating how those ‘imagined roads’ in fiction bring alive places and long after we have travelled on the real roads, books once again make us live though our experiences and make the past alive. The imagined and the real roads become one.


(One of the roads in Ealing Broadway)

6 Replies to “The Fact in Fiction”

  1. Interesting post, Lakshmi 🙂 I think roads are fascinating – they really are a physical representation of the deeper links between people and communities. They are also intrinsically linked to travelling, exploring and making journeys, either real or imagined. Roads are so important to us, wherever we live in the world. I can imagine writers being inspired by them, so they feature in literature, songs or other aspects of culture.

    1. Very true Derrick, it is such a nice feeling when we ‘ meet ‘ people so very far away from us, with whom we can share our thoughts. That is why blogging has become such a nice part of my life. Thanks 🙂

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