Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dan Brown's "Robert Langdon" Novels as Travel Guides

 I resisted reading "The DaVinci Code" for a long time. I'm generally not a big consumer of bestsellers and nothing I heard or read about it tempted me. I was even resistant to seeing the movie, though I eventually caved thanks to Tom Hanks and Paris locations. Beyond the actors and locations, I enjoyed the attention to small symbolic details of artworks and architecture – still wasn't tempted by the book though.

When the film version of "Angels and Demons" came out I was much more enthusiastic about seeing it. CERN, Rome, the Vatican, and of course Tom Hanks conspired to keep me interested. I watched the movie a second time while in the process of planning a trip to Rome, and added "Angels and Demons" to my pre-travel reading list.

Of course there is plenty to see and do in Rome without the aid of a fanciful novel, but it was fun to seek out some of the locations. Without the book I'm not sure I would have paid as much attention to details such as the four winds bas reliefs inserted in the pavement surrounding the obelisk in the center of Vatican Square. We might not have bothered hunting down the Church of Santa Maria Della Vittoria to see Bernini's remarkable statue of the Ecstasy of St. Teresa. And I probably wouldn't have made a point to take a photo of Rafael's tomb in the Pantheon, or to visit the church of Santa Maria del Popolo and seek out the Chigi Chapel.

West wind, Vatican Square
The ecstasy of St. Teresa, Church of Santa Maria Della Vittoria, Rome

Rafael's tomb, Pantheon, Rome

So last year when we were planning a trip to Paris, I finally picked up a copy of "The DaVinci Code." Happenstance put us in an apartment only half a block away from the church of St. Sulpice. St. Sulpice is the home of the "gnomon" or obelisk and the rose line, used in the book as a false clue to trick the albino. 
St. Sulpice, Paris
The actual purpose of the gnomen was celestial calculations: a hole high in the opposite wall is placed to direct a sunbeam to a mark on the obelisk indicating the winter solstice. It would be a fascinating object without the book and film, but I'm not sure it would feature as prominently in guidebooks to Paris as it currently does.

With these successes to look back on, I snapped up the audio version of the latest book in the series, "Inferno." Personally, I think it's the least successful of the three books, but a film and a trip might change my mind. I have not visited Florence or Venice in many decades, and I've never been to Istanbul. I definitely plan to return to Italy someday, and now Hagia Sofia and other sites of Turkey are firmly on my radar. When I'm ready to start serious planning and looking for a motivational read, I expect I'll give "Inferno" another look.


No comments:

Post a Comment