Creative muses come in many forms and that includes places that inspired authors. You might have already seen my article on places that inspired works of art, so I thought it would be just as fun to look at locations that prompted a writer to produce a literary tour de force. Excuse my little indulgence because although there are many, many places that inspired authors, these are some of my favorites – both in terms of location and writers/stories.
Although Hemingway once famously said, “The best place to write is in your head,” authors through time and across cultures have found that specific places – certain cities, landscapes, certain corners of the world – are sources of great inspiration for writing. As the kingdom of America’s political landscape, Washington, D.C. is also one of the chief places that inspired authors, from poet Walt Whitman, to Langston Hughes, to more recent authors, like Tom Clancy, Dan Brown and John Grisham. The city inspires not only writers, but readers as well: founded in 1800, the Library of Congress remains the largest in the world.
Another country capital, Edinburgh serves as a vivid source of literary inspiration, with a lively atmosphere that’s inspired over 500 novels, including Scotland’s own famous verses from 18th-century bard, Robert Burns. Tradition is key in Edinburgh, and the city stokes the flames of its history, as well as its modernity – celebrating both Burns and contemporary writers, like Ian Rankin. Rankin’s work is celebrated through walking tours and pub crawls to favorite haunts of his famed protagonist, Inspector Rebus. The city even boasts a Writers’ Museum, tucked away in a historical 17th-century building. After navigating a stone passageway, viewers can take in exhibits from Scotland’s literary heroes – Sir Walter Scott, Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Dostoevsky once wrote that St. Petersburg was “the most abstract and intentional city on the entire globe,” and there is perhaps no writer more interconnected with a city than Dostoevsky was with Petersburg, as suggested by his perfect prose. In Crime & Punishment, Dostoevsky’s protagonist, Raskolnikov, stalks the streets of the city, as the writer, himself, must have done, breathing in its life and death simultaneously and drawing in the most intense inhalations of inspiration from it. Dostoevsky is not the only writer who found Petersburg appealing; the city has inspired many a Russian writer. With its blustering mix of baroque and neoclassical architecture, Pushkin – Russia’s most celebrated poet – also called this great city home, dying in an infamous duel here at the ripe age of 37. Visitors can stop off at the Literary Cafe, where he ate his last meal, as well as at Dostoevsky’s residence, where the author wrote his great literary work, The Brothers Karamazov.
Paris has long been one of the most seminal places that inspired authors, artists and all-around avant garde characters, drawing them in like a moth to a flame. Whether French, American, British, Irish – no matter a writer’s nationality, Paris was and still is the place to write. French writers, like Honoré de Balzac and Victor Hugo, found fame here. And such literary geniuses (Hemingway, Oscar Wilde and George Orwell to name just a few) are amongst the expatriate writers who saw the light in the City of Light.
From Sherlock Holmes to James Bond to Harry Potter – literary characters who cast some of the biggest shadows have originated in London. England’s capital city has the history and ambiance to make it a perfect background upon which to cast such shadows. Don’t forget that authors who cast big shadows in their own right used to walk these streets as well. In fact, you can go on pub crawls and walking tours to trace the steps of Dickens and Shakespeare.
Santiago is a city for literary lovers. Literally. Home to La Chascona, the secret rendezvous place between mistress/muse and Chile’s celebrated “people’s poet,” Pablo Neruda, Santiago is one of the places that have inspired authors for ages. By visiting Neruda’s love nest, located on the Bellavista neighborhood’s hilltop, you, too, can strike up your own romantic affair (at least in your mind) on a tour of the vibrant blue and yellow home. Another revered Chilean writer, Gabriela Mistral, boasts the Nobel Prize in literature, an honorary mural in Cerro Santa Lucia park and, maybe best of all, her face on the 5,000 peso note.
National capitals seem to be the best places that inspired authors, as the last on this list is Ireland’s brilliant capital city. Drink a pint of Guinness then get yourself drunk on Dublin, as you trace the steps of its greats – such as James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. The energy of the city is about as appealing as its historical significance, which you can find in the famous medieval manuscript, the Book of Kells, housed in the Old Library at Trinity College.
I could also have mentioned the gorgeous Greek island of Santorini (Lord Byron), the English Lake District (William Wordsworth) and the Italian island of Capri (Somerset Maugham) but once again, time has cut my travels short. Do you have a special place that inspires your creative spirit?
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