A LITTLE FLIGHT READING
ATLAS OF CURSED PLACES Olivier Le Carrer (Black Dog & Leventhal, $29.99)
Goodness gracious, what a wicked world we inhabit. It all went downhill after disobedience in the Garden of Eden, according to journalist and sailor Olivier Le Carrer, whose Atlas of
Cursed Places is subtitled “A travel guide to dangerous and frightful destinations”.
If you choose to go on the trip, you’re up for visits to Satan’s synagogue, the antechamber of hell, the toxic lagoon, suicide forest, marsh of the damned and castle of a killer. Add to that places familiar with children being burned for the gods, an invasion of bats, a plague of birds and a cold-blooded monster. You may well be thinking that a quiet week at home is preferable to gallivanting around the globe with Rosemary’s baby. A little local knowledge goes a long way, however: Cape York gets a black cross for being the land of killer crocodiles (it may be time to read more widely on Northern Australia than the NT News).
It’s all hugely entertaining, but Le Carrer is not one to let folklore stand in the way of facts. He’s happy to debunk the myth of Poveglia, Venice’s “island of death”, for example, finding little documentary evidence of the mad and bad said to have run loose there.
And redemption is at hand. Thumbing its nose at a Nazi past, Nuremberg’s former SS barracks building now houses the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. As the author remarks: “One should never lose faith in mankind, even in the most cursed of places.”