My first book by Greene is a 1983 copy of “Stamboul Train” that was published by Penguin Books. I chose it partly because I like the cover artwork by Paul Hogarth, and who can resist a thriller set on a train!
First published in 1932, this was Greene’s first “entertainment” – a category that he created to distinguish from his other more serious works. It was indeed entertaining, starting with a murderer who snuck onto the train, setting into motion a series of events starring a colourful cast.
In my last post, I wrote about travelling through time and space through photographs.
That was what I felt when I first read Stamboul Train. This book captured my imagination from the get-go. For the most part, Greene doesn’t say much about the external environment, focusing instead on the interactions within the train cars.
The result: A suspenseful atmosphere layered with issues such as communism, anti-semitism and lesbianism. This, being a thriller, also has a heady dose of sex and betrayal.
I particularly enjoyed his descriptions about dining in the restaurant carriage, which seems like something from a bygone era. If you know of any trains that still operate a proper dining car, preferably within an affordable budget, please let me know 🙂
Today, I was making notes about the book at Brasserie Verschueren. This is one of the nicer brasseries around Parvis de St. Gilles and has a simple, but lovely Art Deco interior. I wonder if the economy section of the train in Greene’s book might have had a similar cosy ambiance?
Did you know?
While Stamboul Train was originally published as “Orient Express” in the United States, the story is in fact set on the Oostende-Vienna Orient Express, a route that starts in Ostend, a Flemish city on the Belgian coast. Running three times a week, this train passed through cities such as Brussels and Cologne, before combining with the actual Orient Express near Vienna or the luxurious Simplon Orient Express after Belgrade to continue on to Istanbul.
Especially for train lovers
To mark the 130th anniversary of the Orient Express route, SNCF (France’s national railway company) and the Arab World Institute have curated an exhibition in Paris.
The “Il était une fois l’Orient Express” (“Once Upon a Time on the Orient Express”) exhibition features three train cars with styled interiors to recreate the elegance, romance and glamour of train travel during those days.
I love the microsite that has been specially created for this exhibition!
Through a series of beautifully created videos, a conductor of the Orient Express narrates his journey from Paris to Istanbul, before taking the Taurus Express to Cairo. Even if you do not understand French, it is worth watching to see the historic pictures and video footage in some of these destinations. It’s been a while since I’ve had goosebumps from watching publicity materials!
If you can’t make it to Paris, here are some taken at the exhibition by a Paris-based couple, Mathias and Anne Laure. Between the two of them, they often post photographs of interesting and beautiful places that they have visited, each presenting his or own perspective.
I’ve not been to the exhibition yet but I plan to do so before it ends on 31 August 2014!