Tourism of Literary Writings (Creations)

Humberto Fois-Braga, Guilherme Malta & Luiz Guilherme Castro (Juiz de Fora Federal University, Brazil)

“Tourism of Literary Writing”, also named “Tourism of Literary Creation”, characterises a small niche of the tourism segment, with low supply and few tourists, but one which still moves the editorial market and becomes a strategy for authorial projects by certain writers. If in “Literary Tourism” it is the pre-existence of a given work and its author that motivates the travel by readers, in “tourism of literary writing”, it is the writer who, going after subject matters, inspirations, and locations, becomes a tourist himself. Thus, the trip precedes the writing of the literary work. If literary tourism focuses on the reader, then in Literary Creation, we are one step behind before the creation of the literary work. In this scenario, the tourist-writers mine sensitive influences, which will, in turn, be slid into their books. It is, then, a sort of “auto-ethnographic field work”, one where the writer positions himself/herself intentionally as a tourist, carrying out situational experiments of hospitality/hostility with oneself and the otherness, practising “strangeness tests” conducted in a “real life laboratory”, before surrendering to the introspection of writing. Thus, before committing to writing their work, writer-tourists substitute the introspection of the writing process for outdoor activities and the relationship with otherness.

Its premise is not the forms that necessarily give preference to the speech of factual truth, such as the ones we find in travel accounts or tour guides, being also based on what is beyond the accounts and has reached the believable and fictional. Novels are the archetypical expression of such texts. The literary works that stem from such touristic experiences constitute a spectrum ranging from pure fiction (e.g., fantasy novels) to the edge of factual fiction [e.g., autofiction], in other words, without the contractual obligation to a descriptive referentiality-based, ipsis litteris, on the real world. It should also be remembered that tourists will only be considered a part of this segment if their motivation for departure is, from the very beginning, the strategic search for inspiration for a work. We know that many writers are influenced by their experiences as tourists. Still, in these cases, the trip was not intended (motivated) for writing, and what occurred was a posteriori reappropriation of the archives of one’s memories, which, at first, were just detached memories of a literary function.

Such “tourism of literary creation” involves three moments of experience that may overlap but tend to be temporally independent: the triggers, the mining, and the sliding of experiences. Firstly, motivation and structure make departure possible (i.e., the experience triggers). Subsequently, there are the experiences at the transit and arrival destinations (i.e., mining of experiences) put into practice by these travellers who seek to establish a sensitivity to be, subsequently, fictionalised in their artistic works (i.e., a sliding of experiences). The “experience triggers” concern the moment that precedes or coincides with departure for the trip and encompasses issues such as the choice of destination, national or international, which is to be a source of literary inspiration, the financing model for the trip, the length of stay, etc. Regarding the trigger, this activity is mainly organised in three ways: i) artistic and literary residencies, usually run by cultural and academic institutions that publish public notices and offer grants to artists; ii) collective market initiatives develop specific projects to generate a literary collection (e.g., Brazilian multimedia project Coleções Amores Expressos); iii) individual initiatives by several writers who finance their travels on their own. Each alternative operates with greater or lesser flexibility in choosing the destination where the writer will settle to inspire and reference his work (Fois-Braga, 2019). The “mining of experiences” is the time primarily focused on experiencing the destination, that is, how the writer-tourists spend their days in the visited destination, drawing inspiration and often dodging traditional tourist circuits, heading towards the areas considered to be part of everyday life and without appeal to institutionalised tourism. In this process, close to flânerie, they collect materials and take notes, with “notebooks” being an established form of archiving this “mining of experiences”, building another form of recordkeeping that goes beyond photographs and purchasing souvenirs. The mining of experiences serves as a backstage for writing, being a pre-creation act: the souvenir that literary writing tourists bring in their luggage is not necessarily a finished work, but sketches, drafts, images, and document memories that will fuel their writing. However, many times, these writers who use “literary writing tourism” bring to the public moments of experience mining, whether on personal pages, social networks, or interviews, as a way of constituting an image and an authorial performance for themselves, all the while generating engagement and interest among the public (Fois-Braga, 2019).Finally, the “sliding of experience” is the process through which the writing fictionalises the tourists who have made the journey. The travel does not end when they arrive home; it continues while writing the work. If the draft is produced on the road, the work tends to be completed at home. It is usually upon returning home, after the trip, that this sliding occurs with greater intensity when the writers dedicate to (un)consciously organising documents and lived experiences, transforming their tourist experience into an aesthetically literary enunciation; in other words, transposing them allegorically to the diegetic universe inhabited by characters in these destinations, blurring the relationships between reality and fiction. Therefore, if there is a specific observance of the travellers’ subjectivities to their creative writings, such texts can become the object of biographical criticism used in literary studies, but with caution so as not to seek an exact overlap between tourist destination and narrative space, character and writer-tourist (Fois-Braga, 2019).

Travelling is not necessarily to write a novel set in another destination. However, one renowned work of 20th-century Brazilian literature resulted from the “tourism of literary creation” undertaken by his author. In 1952, the novelist João Guimarães Rosa participated in an expedition carried out by cowboys moving their herds through the back lands of Minas Gerais. Rosa wrote down his experiences in notebooks, which were published posthumously in 2011, with the titles A Boiada 01 and A Boiada 02, containing writings, scribbles and drawings, daydreams, and an inventory of things and beings (e.g., names of cows, descriptions of the sky, speeches and prayers of the cowboys) and cartographic mappings carried out throughout his journey, by horse. The content of these notebooks served as a source for his works that today are part of the Brazilian literary canon: the Grande Sertão: Veredas (1956).

An English example comes from the writer Neil Gaiman, who, in the preface to his work American Gods (2016: 7), reports that to write his novel, he travelled to different regions of the United States of America to understand better the development of the story he was writing: “I finished the first chapter during a train ride from Chicago to San Diego. And I kept travelling, and I kept writing […]. I tried not to write about any place I hadn’t been to” (Gaiman, 2016: 8).

The Italian writer and intellectual Umberto Eco, in his work Confessions of a Young Novelist (2013), also discusses the process of creation based on trips to the places where the works are anchored in search of a reliable description and an immersion in the local atmosphere to better feel it in his own body before transposing it into his fictional world: “What do I do during the years of literary gestation? I collect documents; I visit places and draw maps [...]” (Eco, 2013: 16). He illustrates his process using examples of walks through the streets of Paris to create the novel Foucault's Pendulum (1989) and his trip to the South Seas to visit the place he wanted to set The Island of the Day Before (2010). Eco even twists the motivation behind what we consider “tourism of literary writing”: if the reason is to travel to be inspired, he decides to write Baudolino (2007) because he thought it was a reasonable justification for travelling to Turkey: “Constantinople had fascinated me for a long time, but I had never been there. So that I had a reason to visit it, I needed to tell a story about this city and the Byzantine civilization. So, I travelled to Constantinople” (Eco, 2013: 25). Eco is genuinely a great representative of this “Tourism of Literary Creation” because, as he concluded: “[...] when I am writing about a specific place, I need to know it” (Eco, 2013: 22).

Finally, although we are focused on literature, we could infer that several human creations arise from this intentional touristic experience, ranging from music and paintings to essays and scientific texts, which would lead us to suggest a broader form of this segment: “tourism of artistic and intellectual creation".

How to cite this dictionary entry: Fois-Fraga, H., Malta, G. & Castro, L.G. (2023). Tourism of Literary Writings (Creations). In R. Baleiro, G. Capecchi & J. Arcos-Pumarola (Orgs.). E-Dictionary of Literary Tourism. University for Foreigners of Perugia.

  • Eco, U. (2013). Confissões de um jovem romancista. Cosac Naify.
  • Fois-Braga, H. (2019). Tourism of literary writing: The Brazilian Author as an International Tourist in the Amores Expressos Collection. In Jenkins, I., Land K. A. Enkins, I. & Land, K. A. (Eds.). Literary Tourism: Theories, practice and case studies,149-162. CAB International.
  • Fois-Braga, H., & Castro, L. G. A. de (2019). A escrita anarquitextual nos romances de viagem latino-americanos. Revue Caravelle (Toulouse), 112, 125-140.
  • Gaiman, N. (2016). Deuses americanos. Intrínseca.