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— World Book Day: EUROPALIA's list

Wondering what to read this Spring? Having previously shared a list of short stories, EUROPALIA has now compiled a list of novels. On the occasion of World Book Day and the next edition of the festival, which takes trains and their impact on society as its starting point, EUROPALIA has selected 10 works about trains and tracks. Head to our website to discover the complete list. Happy reading!

EUROPALIA TRAINS & TRACKS, from 14 October 2021 until 15 May 2022. The festival is currently being developed; the full programme and more info on our literature section will be released this spring. In the meantime, subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date. Having previously shared a list of short stories, EUROPALIA has now compiled a list of novels. On the occasion of World Book Day and the next edition of the festival, which takes trains and their impact on society as its starting point, EUROPALIA has selected 10 works about trains and tracks. EUROPALIA TRAINS & TRACKS, from 14 October 2021 until 15 May 2022. The festival is currently being developed; the full programme and more info on our literature section will be released this spring. In the meantime, subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date. Happy reading!

Alessandro Barrico, Lands of Glass (1991)

The inhabitants of the imaginary town of Quinnipak try to realize impossible dreams. The greatest dream of Mr Rail, director of a glass factory and inventor of a series of crazy projects, is to build a 200-kilometre stretch of railway and have his own train. Lands of Glass is a Kafkaesque story with a motley crew of colourful characters, filled with imaginative visions.

Agatha Christie, The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928)

This book is part of Christie’s series about the fictional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. In this story, a millionaire’s daughter, Ruth Kettering, receives a world-famous ruby from her father. While travelling to the French Riviera on the so-called Blue Train, the young heiress is murdered. Poirot, a passenger on the same train, sets out to solve the case.

Johan Daisne, De trein der traagheid (1950)

Johan Daisne, the pseudonym of Herman Thiery, was one of the pioneers of magic realism in Dutch literature. In his compelling novella De trein der traagheid, three train passengers embark on a mysterious journey in a strange and dark land, a timeless transition between life and death.

Graham Greene, Stamboul Train (1932)

This spy thriller by master storyteller Graham Greene takes place during the interwar years. Aboard the Orient Express bound for Constantinople, Carleton Myatt meets a young woman named Coral Musker. As they grow closer, they become entangled in the fate of other passengers and are steadily drawn into a web of murder and lies. 

Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train (1950)

Adapted for cinema by Alfred Hitchcock, this classic story revolves around the strange Bruno, who meets Guy Haines during a train journey. As a result of the train journey with Bruno, Haines is drawn into a series of ominous events leading to murder and mayhem. 

Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon (2004)

Startled by the realisation that time is slipping through his fingers, teacher Raimund Gregorius leaves his life behind and takes the train to Lisbon the very same night. The reason for this drastic step is a book he received by chance. It is by the Portuguese doctor, Amadeu de Prado, who writes so penetratingly about the deepest human experiences that Gregorius is utterly consumed. Once in Lisbon, he goes in search of traces of Prado. 

Khushwant Singh, Train to Pakistan (1956)

India, 1947. In the village of Mano Majra, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus live peacefully side by side until a train full of murdered refugees arrives in the village. The civil war around the creation of India and Pakistan has begun. Train to Pakistan is a deeply moving story about a centuries-old village community that is torn apart in a matter of days.

Ethel Lina White, The Wheel Spins (1936)

After a holiday, Iris Carr returns to England. On the train she meets Miss Froy, a chatty elderly lady. When she wakes up after a short nap, she discovers that her elderly travelling companion seems to have disappeared from the train. After her fellow passengers deny ever having seen the elderly lady, Iris becomes increasingly nervous. With the help of a young English traveller, she sets out to find answers to Miss Froy’s disappearance. This novel was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Lady Vanishes (1938).

Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016)

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in nineteenth century Georgia. When the cruel owner sets his sights on her, she decides to flee. With the help of the Underground Railroad (the secret network of abolitionists) she embarks on a long, hair-raising journey through the southern states of America towards the free North, with a slave patrol hot on her heels. 

Émile Zola, La Bête humaine (1890)

Lantier, the main character in Zola’s novel La Bête humaine, suffers from a hereditary form of madness, which includes the urge to murder. Lantier is the engine driver of a locomotive called La Lison. His relationship with the locomotive is almost sexual, which leads to an intriguing but dangerous love affair. Once unleashed, La Lison is a monster, a symbol of uncontrollable progress. As the son of an engineer, Zola was not only fascinated by locomotives but also by the people of the railways.

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