July 25, 2012
This is the first entry in a list of some of my favorite running books. Might be a few cycling or other outdoor sorts of books down the line.
Running by Jean Echenoz, 2008, is up first simply because it’s the most recent I’ve read. My college friend Tom, long a resident of Barcelona, recommended this book from French novelist Echenoz. While I knew a bit about the great Emil Zatopek’s running exploits, I knew a good deal less about his life under an oppressive government in Czechoslovakia. Telling the story as the two play out together is Echenoz’s focus in this simple, gracefully written book.
A short excerpt:
“There are runners who seem to fly, others who seem to dance, still others who look as if they were parading, and some appear to be advancing as though they were sitting on top of their legs. There are those who simply look as if they’ve been summoned and are hurrying as fast as possible. Emil, nothing like all that.
“Emil, you’d think he was excavating, like a ditch digger, or digging deep into himself, as if he were in a trance. Ignoring every time-honored rule and any thought of elegance, Emil advances laboriously, in a jerky, tortured manner, all in fits and starts. He doesn’t hide the violence in his efforts, which shows in his wincing, grimacing, tetanized face, constantly contorted by a rictus quite painful to see. His features are twisted, as if torn my appalling suffering; sometimes his tongue sticks out. It’s as if he had a scorpion in each shoe, catapulting him on. He seems far away when he runs, terribly far away, concentrating so hard he’s not even there—except that he’s more there than anyone else; and hunkered down between his shoulders, on that neck always leaning in the same direction, his head bobs along endlessly, lolling and wobbling from side to side.”