The Borders Are Closed But Our Imagination Is Not

By Maximilian Colloredo-Mansfeld—Anglo American University

While we are still in these times of the Covid virus, it’s hard not to think about the isolation we all are going through, as well as the stress and anxiety that it includes.

Surely it is important but one cannot always dwell on the negative; sometimes we need a ticket out. A ticket to a place without a virus, and instead adventure and memories of green summer grass and dusty country roads. One might call me crazy but there is such a place; it’s called “Covid Corner” and the conductor of your imagination is Mark Slouka, an American-born writer of Czech descent, living in Prague.

The Author of Brewster (2013), All That Is Left Is All That Matters: Stories (2018) and Nobody’s Son: A Memoir (2016), reads to us from Kenneth Grahame’s children’s novel, The Wind in the Willows. With his soothing voice and an animated way of reading we are transported from his son’s couch into a world of toads, moles, rats, badgers, and a hint of civilization.

Much like his storytelling, his own books follow the same intensity. Ariel Leve, an American journalist, describes Nobody’s Son in a review for The New York Times: “With the rich prose of a novel, it is a story about escapes…seeking refuge the only way he knows how to escape through words.”

The Wind in the Willows (first published in 1908) is the story of a “Moly” mole who one day gets tired of his secluded home and decides to venture into the outside world with the hope to experience something greater in life. As he comes to a riverbank, Moly encounters Ratty, a relaxed and friendly water vole who welcomes him into his home; and the two, as the time and summer passes, build a fundamental friendship. Following their friendship and adventures with the rivers’ toads and otters and the animals of the wild forest, we are secretly guided through the underground dweller’s (Moly’s) spiritual journey.

Mark Slouka takes us through the twelve-chapter novel in an enticing matter with his utmost attentive dog beside him. As he reads one forgets all about the troubles of the outside world and instead takes the role of a warm-hearted Mole. Teaching us after his reading that in this time in history, what helps the most is to be affectionate, helpful, and show respect to the ones that need it the most. So sit down, relax, and learn one of the most suitable lessons for today’s environment from someone, some might say, as insignificant as a mole.

“There’s nothing quite like the world of the imagination for taking us away for a while and reminding us of some of the things that ultimately matter: decency, friendship, loyalty, love,” says Mark Slouka in a short email conversation. 

Slouka’s books have been published in up to sixteen languages; after finishing his Ph.D. at Columbia he has been a professor in Literature and Writing at Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago.

Now we have the honor to hear him read for us from Prague (on YouTube)

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