The English forest that inspired Tolkien

Slide show: A look at the locations that informed celebrated novelists, from Faulkner to Woolf

By Megan Cytron
Published March 13, 2011 4:10PM (EDT)

Novels make particularly good travel companions. They make even better travel guides. A well-written book is an envelope of space and time. Inspired by Einstein's theory of relativity, the literary theorist M.M. Bakhtin called the fictional universe of well-conceived novels "'chronotopes,' the places where the knots of narrative are tied and untied." What better way to explore a novel's "timespace" than to transport yourself there and read your way through it?

Travel writing tends to skate on the surface of a place, while novels reveal much deeper truths. For any literary traveler, it's a thrill to seek out those settings where the real world has carried on, yet the fictional world is still palpable. Often, the imaginary -- the Macondos and Yoknapatawphas -- eclipse the here and now, a testament to the writer's power to transform the ordinary into the eternal.

By the way, this is just a point of departure. We'd love to hear about the dog-eared novels and fictionalized places that have inspired you to travel in the comments.

Megan Cytron

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