I just spent four days in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, because of a book. It goes like this: Some time in the late eighties I read an article by Robert D. Kaplan about the break-up of Yugoslavia. When his book Balkan Ghosts came out, I snapped it up. When my son was about twelve and a precocious reader, I gave him his own copy. He couldn't get enough. Born the year the Berlin Wall fell, spending time nearly each summer in the Balkan part of Greece where my family's roots are, and growing up with newspapers full of Slavic names and datelines in small Balkan villages where events of enormity took place, he almost had no choice but to be fascinated by Kaplan's book.
Fast forward to college and his decision on where to study abroad. Still the Balkans, always the Balkans, with Kaplan's flame alive in his thinking. And so, for the skiing: Slovenia. Now I've been there for the second time in two years--and all because of a book.
There are many interesting things about Slovenia, this tiny country with a passel of alps, turreted churches, just enough coastline to hold a town that dates to the Venetians, and an entire population seemingly on wheels (either bicycles or rollerblades).
And about that population: two million. If there are only two million of you, you all learn English.
I don't know any of the great names in Slovene literature. But I do wonder what will happen to that tradition if, as seems to be the trend, no one outside Slovenia bothers to learn Slovene anymore. Even vigorous translation programs might not be enough to stem the tide of evaporation.
And here I am, worrying about Slovenia because of a book I read (and re-read) and admired.
Q: Have you ever made a major to medium-sized life choice because of one specific book? OK, even a small life choice?