Wednesday, December 29, 2021

the last book I ever read (Admiring Silence by Abdulrazak Gurnah, excerpt three)

from Admiring Silence by Abdulrazak Gurnah, the 2021 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature:

‘Hasn’t it been lovely these last few days?’ Mrs Willoughby said. ‘I hope it lasts, though I don’t expect it will. Have you been in England long?’

Long enough to know how to respond to intimate small talk of that kind. Murmur audibly, smile brightly, say nothing. In general that did not seem to me at the time to be a contemptible philosophy, and there were many occasions when I rebuked myself for failing to live by it more consistently. I felt Emma watching me, waiting for me to take offence about something. I had been well primed for this, to expect to be offended by something her parents were bound to say, or imply, or disguise in an apparently innocent commonplace. Mr Willoughby came up with the goods at once, casually, almost kindly, staring at me with bristly intensity, curious to hear my opinion. ‘I expect there are thousands of darkies in universities these days. It wasn’t like that in my day. Perhaps the odd maharaja’s son, or a young chief. The rest were too backward, I suppose. Now you see them everywhere.’

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