Staycationing holidaymakers will have a chance to “travel” the globe in a new BBC and Open University (OU) co-production “Write Around the World with Richard E Grant” airing on TV this week.
The three-part series, which airs on BBC Four from Tuesday, 3 August, at 9pm, sees thespian Grant charting the journeys of some well-loved and great authors who either set their literary works in countries around the globe, or whose surroundings inspired their writing.
Book exerts read by a self-confessed bookworm
Grant, a self-confessed bookworm since childhood, reads from their books as he takes in the sights and sounds of the places which come to life in their work. Specialist academics from the OU worked with the production team on the series and there is a wealth of learning to accompany each episode.
Grant said it was a real privilege and pleasure to follow in the footsteps of contemporary and classic authors in their chosen “stomping grounds”.
“Reading a book by an author, when you go to the country they come from and the location where the novel or travelogue is set, particularly, it gives you a 360-degree experience which enhances and expands your experience of reading the novel, I think,” he says.
His journey takes him to France, Spain and Italy during segments of 2020 for this journey of discovery.
How novels can impact the prosperity of an area
Along the way we find him speeding across the bay of Marseilles to Chateau D’If, the atmospheric and foreboding island prison that inspired Alexandre Dumas to create his epic story of the Count of Monte Christo.
In another scene, we see him peering over the rim of Mount Vesuvius where Charles Dickens visited 170 years ago; and he discovers where books have had a direct impact on the prosperity of an area.
Academic consultant Nicola Watson, professor of English Literature at the OU, an expert of literary tourism and travel blogger who worked on the programme, said:
“There are two reasons to read books: to illuminate your life, or to escape from it. Books set in another country may well do both.
“Armchair travelling, for all that we are deadly tired of travelling by Zoom, cuts out expense and discomfort while offering a particularly privileged insider glimpse of a place.”
Her colleague, Dr Joanne Reardon, who is a lecturer in creative writing at the OU, who also worked on the project, said:
“To read about someone else’s story is to go on an adventure, even more so if it’s to another country where we can experience places we can only dream of.
“Books set in another country take us to unfamiliar worlds and help us to experience new places and cultures (and through this, the story) for ourselves.”
Watch the BBC Four trailer here.
This series was commissioned by Broadcast and Partnerships and is supported by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The production company is Storyvault. The series has particular relevance for anyone wishing to study the subject further, with particular relevance to:
BA (Hons) Arts and Humanities, BA (Hons) English Literature, BA (Hons) English Literature and Creative Writing, BA (Hons) Classical Studies, MA in English, MA in Creative Writing, A112 Cultures
A233 Telling Stories: The Novel and Beyond, A230 Reading and Studying Literature, A215 Creative Writing and A363 Advanced Creative Writing.
- Commissioned by Dr Caroline Ogilvie, Head of Broadcast & Partnerships
- Academic Consultants: Professor Nicola Watson and Dr Joanne Reardon
- Media Fellow: Dr Jo Paul
- Broadcast Project Manager: Jo Weeks
- Digital Content Producer: Daniel Browne