Just as almost every Hollywood blockbuster spawns a sequel, here’s an encore to our book trails recommendation list. If you have already paused to peruse the wonders of Ian Fleming’s London, James Joyce’s Dublin and Ernest Hemingway’s Paris, our current offering takes you on a virtual journey through Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm and Haruki Murakami’s Tokyo.
Read on to view these vibrant cities through the lens of Larsson and Murakami, but ‘pause’ to consider jetting out on a real journey in their footsteps by undertaking one of these illuminating literary trails…
STIEG LARSSON'S STOCKHOLM
Empty streets, cold winter rain and shadows on bloody back lanes — this is the deeply atmospheric background of Sweden’s literary landscape. Now, with over 73 million people worldwide having read his books, Stieg Larsson’s posthumous super-success has cemented Stockholm’s place atop the Scandinavian pecking order of crime fiction.
The Mellqvist Kaffebar, where Mikael Blomkvist met his mistress Erika, as well as Lisbeth.
Image Credit: blogs.taz.de
The Inside Track: Log on to www.stadsmuseet.stockholm.se to sign up for what the folks at ‘Lonely Planet’ are touting as the ‘No. 1 Literary Walking tour in the World’. The Millennium Tour – ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ trail in Stockholm has toppled several classics to become the world’s most popular literary walk, with critics describing it as “an atmospheric walk which helps colour in the dark outlines of Scandi noir.” It follows the landscapes of Larsson’s Millennium trilogy of crime novels starring journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. As a journalist and right-wing researcher, Larsson lived much of his life in Stockholm, which also played muse to his novels with its “godforsaken places at the back of beyond”.
Pit Stops: Begin in Stockholm’s bohemian quarter Södermalm, where Blomkvist has an apartment and where Kvarnen (the café which most of the book’s characters frequent) is also located. Move on to the local 7-Eleven, where Larsson’s heroine, Lisbeth Salander, shops for Billy’s Pan Pizza. Also interesting is Adat Israel, the ancient synagogue on St. Paulsgatan which conscientious Inspector Jan Bublanski attends. Pause to enjoy drinks at the luxurious Gold Bar at the Nobis Hotel, frequented by Daniel Craig who stars in Hollywood’s film version of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. Another swish watering hole, where Mikael met his mistress Erika as well as Lisbeth, is the Mellqvist Kaffebar in Hornsgatan. This was also one of Stieg Larsson’s favourite hangouts in the Nineties.
Pause In Luxury: The Stockholm Archipelago — 14 islands make up the city — is not all cold, isolated and ominous. Stay at the Grand Hôtel, which has a gorgeous waterfront location, overlooking the Royal Palace and Gamla Stan. It has hosted celebrities, Nobel Prize winners and bon vivants since 1874. A classic Nordic smörgasbord at The Veranda restaurant, Michelin-starred meals and a hot sauna complete the stately picture.
HARUKI MURAKAMI'S TOKYO
A contradiction of sorts, the capital of Japan is at once a hyper-modern metropolis with dizzying skyscrapers and flashing neon lights, but look beyond the glitzy surface and there’s an old world, almost mystical quality to the former feudal capital of Japan — with its Buddhist temples, kabuki stages and sumo tournaments.
The lobby of the legendary Hotel Okura, that Murakami mentions in ‘1Q84’.
Image Credit: alicegao.com
The Inside Track: As one of the world’s greatest living novelists, Haruki Murakami is not so much a writer as he is an institution; thus making his home town, Tokyo, a rite of passage for legions of his worshippers across the globe. For most readers, Murakami’s Tokyo — drenched in the author’s signature magic realism style — is more appealing than the real city. There are cookbooks published on the meals described in his novels and a Polish company is even whipping up a ‘1Q84’-themed travel guide to Tokyo! In the absence of a guided Murakami trail in the city, you can string together your own version of the same, winding through Jingu-Gaien (the author’s favourite running route) to a lunch of chicken salad and crispy toast at Denny’s, where his novel ‘After Dark’ begins. You can also breathe in some Murakami magic at the stunningly elevated Metropolitan Expressway 3, where ‘1Q84’ opens.
Pit Stops: The Nakamuraya Café in Shinjuku, which served as a central meeting place for the characters in ‘1Q84’, is ideal to launch into a Murakami trail — in fact, the author himself ran a similar jazz café in his youth. Drop in any time and you’ll be accosted by Murakami fans from across the globe, not to mention the odd television crew hunting for good bytes! Also crucial is Jingu Stadium (home of the Yakult Swallows), where Murakami famously decided to become a writer, while watching a game in 1978. Do check out Kinokuniya Books, where he bought writing material to pen down his first book, ‘Hear the Wind Sing’ and, if you do venture to his office in the city, stop to gawk at the marvellous Prada store next door! While traversing the city, you could also pause at Aoyama-Itchome to recall the subway station featured in ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’.
Pause In Luxury: Like everything connected to Murakami, the legendary Hotel Okura (featured in one of the most puzzling scenes in ‘1Q84’) is a mirage. It has hosted American presidents, stars like Michael Jackson and even Ian Fleming’s James Bond — who stayed here in the ‘You Only Live Twice’. Currently, however, the dazzling 5-star hotel is being reconstructed for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, so book a suite in an operational section of the Okura while you can!
If you’ve missed part one of this two-part feature on the world’s most illuminating literary trails, do ‘pause’ to read that too…
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