Johann Gottfried Seume
Author: Johann Gottfried Seume
Title: Spaziergang nach Syrakus im Jahre 1802 [Stroll To Syracuse In The Year 1802] Time: 1802
Destination: Germany to Italy
Length: a year
Type: mostly walking
Spanning the distance
The story: JGS is an editor from Saxony who embarks on a trip to Italy, just like Johann Wolfgang Goethe and many others did before him. This was pretty fashionable among the rich and famous back then, and for many it was just part of their so-called “Grand Tour”.
Johann Gottfried Seume just walking around
But JGS isn’t one of those guys. He is neither particularly wealthy nor does he have a big name or an entourage, and his main mode of transportation consists simply of his own two feet. And while others might be a bit bloated and preoccupied with the immense task of shaping their character, JGS is a lot more humble. He makes it look like he is just walking around, observing, narrating, and getting in touch with the people he runs into.
on the road with a regular guy
The resulting book is awesome. Sure, sometimes it is a bit difficult to follow JGS’s descriptions of sceneries, especially of towns, because he seems to be observing them mostly from a military standpoint (where they would be vulnerable to attack, etc.), but all in all, it is just a blessing to be out there with him, enjoying the fruits of the Italian countryside, getting mad at injustices, rejoicing at all the beauty that is there, and being simply… human.
a great gift
To span the distance between the souls, across time and space, beyond even the barrier of life and death – isn’t that one of the greatest gifts of literature, or of art in general? This book did that for me, like only very few others did.