This month, my short stories column at PopMatters is all about the journey — by train, bus, airplane, car, even foot. And how, in that state of being neither here nor there, just about anything can happen. These five stories are also excellent examples of travel as a versatile literary device.
The stories (free to read online) are from all over the world and by these fine writers: Asako Serizawa, Nanjil Nadan, Goli Taraghi, Stephen King, and John Cheever.
The most striking aspect of the best travel or journey narratives is that the landscapes described along the way are as important to the stories as the main characters. Key plot points, narrative tension and suspense, and the characters’ internal and external conflicts are all derived from their encounters and interactions with the elements, mode(s) of travel, and the people around them during a journey. The protagonists of such stories always undergo significant metamorphoses because of their new experiences and/or perspectives. Typically, the physical journey is also a metaphor for an inner journey. And, as is often the case in the real world, what matters is the actual act of travel versus the arrival at some destination.