Monday, January 31, 2022

the last book I ever read (The King by Donald Barthelme, excerpt eight)

from The King by Donald Barthelme:

“The roof is leaking,” said Guinevere, “although I don’t suppose you care.”

“I have never yet owned a castle where the roof did not leak at one point or another,” said Arthur. “The entelechy of roofs is to leak, something the architect Griegsmore taught me long, long ago. Why, madam, may I ask, are you favoring me with this information? Have we no staff in this blasted place?”

Sunday, January 30, 2022

the last book I ever read (The King by Donald Barthelme, excerpt seven)

from The King by Donald Barthelme:

“Well,” said Arthur, “the field is ours, that’s the main thing.”

“At great cost,” said Launcelot. “I counted the dead, just an estimate, of course. They seemed as many as the birds of the air.”

“The scavengers have made a pile of the swords of the fallen,” said Sir Kay. “It reaches as high as seven refrigerators stacked one atop another.”

“Seven stacked refrigerators,” said Arthur. “You figure has a distressing modernity to it.”

“Can’t be helped. Swords hammered into refrigerators, refrigerators hammered into swords—it’s the currency of today.”

Saturday, January 29, 2022

the last book I ever read (The King by Donald Barthelme, excerpt six)

from The King by Donald Barthelme:

“Look you,” said Launcelot, “there’s something written on the hanged chap’s leg.”

“A rope burn, perhaps.”

“Appears to be a mathematical formula of some sort.”

“Perhaps I’d better copy it. Might be important.”

“Oh, I doubt it. He’s hardly the sort of person who’d have something important written on his leg.”

“Be that as it may,” said the Black Knight, and began copying.

Friday, January 28, 2022

the last book I ever read (The King by Donald Barthelme, excerpt five)

from The King by Donald Barthelme:

“It’s rather terrible, being a queen. One has to attend functions. One has to stand there smiling while the local fellow explains how the peat is packaged.”

“How is the peat packaged?”

“Very skillfully,” said Lyonesse, “but the point is, you don’t want to know how the peat is packaged and you are pretty damned sure that your good husband, back at the palace, is topping Glenda or one of the other ladies while you are at the inaugural ceremonies for the new peat-packing facility.”

“I see.”

Thursday, January 27, 2022

the last book I ever read (The King by Donald Barthelme, excerpt four)

from The King by Donald Barthelme:

“Good sir, I think you not half so sorrowful as myself.”

“I am more sorrowful than any man I ever met,” said the Red Knight, “my acute historical consciousness being widened and deepened by my advanced years. With all respect, your sorrow is but japes to my sorrow.”

Then Sir Roger swooned away from sorrow, and woke and swooned again, and every time he woke he swooned anew.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

the last book I ever read (The King by Donald Barthelme, excerpt three)

from The King by Donald Barthelme:

“Your father was King Ban of Benwick.”

“How did you know that?

“The whole world knows,” said Sir Roger. “I ask you to consider the implications of the name ‘Ban.’”

“I have,” said Launcelot. “The name was on the mark. He was a good man and a good king, but proscriptive in the extreme. He liked to forbid things. This was forbidden, that was forbidden, the other was forbidden. Wake up in the morning and you’d find that three new things had been forbidden. Not the jolliest place in the world, Benwick.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

the last book I ever read (The King by Donald Barthelme, excerpt two)

from The King by Donald Barthelme:

“Sir, do you yield?”

“Heaven forfend,” said the Black Knight.

“Would you care to rest, just for a moment?”

“You are an ever-courteous knight,” said the Black Knight, “and yes, I could do with a moment’s surcease.”

The two sitting together, their helms removed, sharing a bit of Brie-with-pepper on pebble bread.

Monday, January 24, 2022

the last book I ever read (The King by Donald Barthelme, excerpt one)

from The King by Donald Barthelme:

“Shall we give the Italians some part of what they want? I think not. They’ll only be back.”

“We could bomb Milan. A preemptive strike. Make them reflect on things. Last things.”

“I have never acquired a taste for bombing civilian populations,” said the king. “It seems a violation of the social contract. We’re supposed to do the fighting, and they’re supposed to pay for it.”

“Those were the days.”

Sunday, January 23, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt fourteen)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

Yet it was the place Lou wanted. In an instant, her heart sprang to it. The instant the car stopped, and he saw the two cabins inside the rickety fence, the rather broken corral beyond, and, behind all, tall, blue balsam pines, the round hills, the solid uprise of the mountain flank: and, getting down, she looked across the purple and gold of the clearing, downwards at the ring of pine-trees standing so still, so crude and untamable, the motionless desert beyond the bristles of the pine crests, a thousand feet below: and, beyond the desert, blue mountains, and far, far-off blue mountains in Arizona: “This is the place,” she said to herself.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt thirteen)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

Within these outer layers of herself lay the successive inner sanctuaries of herself. And these were inviolable. She accepted it.

“I am not a marrying woman,” she said to herself. “I am not a lover nor a mistress nor a wife. It is no good. Love can't really come into me from the outside, and I can never, never mate with any man, since the mystic new man will never come to me. No, no, let me know myself and my role. I am one of the eternal Virgins, serving the eternal fire. My dealings with men have only broken my stillness and messed up my doorways. It has been my own fault. I ought to stay virgin, and still, very, very still, and serve the most perfect service. I want my temple and my loneliness and my Apollo mystery of the inner fire. And with men, only the delicate, subtler, more remote relations. No coming near. A coming near only breaks the delicate veils, and broken veils, like broken flowers, only lead to rottenness.”

She felt a great peace inside herself as she made this realization. And a thankfulness. Because, after all, it seemed to her that the hidden fire was alive and burning in this sky, over the desert, in the mountains.

She felt a certain latent holiness in the very atmosphere, a young spring-fire of latent holiness, such as she had never felt in Europe, or in the East. “For me,” she said, as she looked away at the mountains in shadow and the pale-warm desert beneath, with wings of shadow upon it: “For me, this place is sacred. It is blessed.”

Friday, January 21, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt twelve)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

“What shall we do next, mother?” Lou asked.

“As far as I am concerned, there is no next,” said Mrs.Witt.

“Come, mother! Let's go back to Italy or somewhere, if it's as bad as that.”

“Never again, Louise, shall I cross that water. I have come home to die.”

“I don't see much home about it--the Gonzales Hotel in Santa Fe.”

“Indeed not! But as good as anywhere else, to die in.”

“Oh, mother, don't be silly! Shall we look for somewhere where we can be by ourselves?”

“I leave it to you, Louise. I have made my last decision.”

Thursday, January 20, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt eleven)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

Even St. Mawr felt himself strange, as it were naked and singled out, in this rough place. Like a jewel among stones, a pearl before swine, maybe. But the swine were no fools. They knew a pearl from a grain of maize, and a grain of maize from a pearl. And they knew what they wanted. When it was pearls, it was pearls; though chiefly it was maize. Which shows good sense. They could see St. Mawr's points. Only he needn’t draw the point too fine, or it would just not pierce the tough skin of this country.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt ten)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

It was America, it was Texas. They were at their ranch, on the great level of yellow autumn, with the vast sky above. And after all, from the hot wide sky, and the hot, wide, red earth, there did come something new, something not used up. Lou did feel exhilarated.

The Texans were there, tall blond people, ingenuously cheerful, ingenuously, childishly intimate, as if the fact that you had never seen them before was as nothing compared to the fact that you'd all been living in one room together all your lives, so that nothing was hidden from either of you. The one room being the mere shanty of the world in which we all live. Strange, uninspired cheerfulness, filling, as it were, the blank of complete incomprehension.

And off they set in their motor-cars, chiefly high-legged Fords, rattling away down the red trails between yellow sunflowers or sere grass or dry cotton, away, away into great distances, cheerfully raising the dust of haste. It left Lou in a sort of blank amazement. But it left her amused, not depressed. The old screws of emotion and intimacy that had been screwed down so tightly upon her fell out of their holes, here. The Texan intimacy weighed no more on her than a postage stamp, even if, for the moment, it stuck as close. And there was a certain underneath recklessness, even a stoicism, in all the apparently childish people, which left one free. They might appear childish: but they stoically depended on themselves alone, in reality. Not as in England, where every man waited to pour the burden of himself upon you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt nine)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

She was in love with him. And he, in an odd way, was in love with her. She had known it by the odd, uncanny merriment in him, and his unexpected loquacity. But he would not have her come physically near him. Unapproachable there as a cactus, guarding his “body” from her contact. As if contact with her would be mortal insult and fatal injury to his marvellous “body.”

What a little cock-sparrow!

Monday, January 17, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt eight)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

Mrs. Witt rode on in the rain, which abated as the afternoon wore down, and the evening came without rain, and with a suffusion of pale yellow light. All the time she had trotted in silence, with Lewis just behind her and she scarcely saw the heather-covered hills with the deep clefts between them, nor the oak-woods, nor the lingering foxgloves, nor the earth at all. Inside herself she felt a profound repugnance for the English country: she preferred even the crudeness of Central Park in New York.

And she felt an almost savage desire to get away from Europe, from everything European. Now she was really en route, she cared not a straw for St. Mawr or for Lewis or anything. Something just writhed inside her, all the time, against Europe. That closeness, that sense of cohesion, that sense of being fused into a lump with all the rest--no matter how much distance you kept--this drove her mad. In America the cohesion was a matter of choice and will. But in Europe it was organic, like the helpless particles of one sprawling body. And the great body in a state of incipient decay.

She was a woman of fifty-one: and she seemed hardly to have lived a day. She looked behind her the thin trees and swamps of Louisiana, the sultry, sub-tropical excitement of decaying New Orleans, the vast bare dryness of Texas, with mobs of cattle in an illumined dust! The half-European thrills of New York! The false stability of Boston! A clever husband, who was a brilliant lawyer, but who was far more thrilled by his cattle ranch than by his law: and who drank heavily and, died. The years of first widowhood in Boston, consoled by a self-satisfied sort of intellectual courtship from clever men.--For curiously enough, while she wanted it, she had always been able to compel men to pay court to her. All kinds of men.--Then a rather dashing time in New York--when she was in her early forties. Then the long visual philandering in Europe. She left off “loving,” save through the eye, when she came to Europe. And when she made her trips to America, she found it was finished there also, her “loving.”

Sunday, January 16, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt seven)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

In the morning she found her mother sitting at a window watching a funeral. It was raining heavily, so that some of the mourners even wore mackintosh coats. The funeral was in the poorer corner of the churchyard, where another new grave was covered with wreaths of sodden, shrivelling flowers. The yellowish coffin stood on the wet earth, in the rain: the curate held his hat, in a sort of permanent salute, above his head, like a little umbrella, as he hastened on with the service. The people seemed too wet to weep more wet.

It was a long coffin.

“Mother, do you really like watching?” asked Lou irritably, as Mrs. Witt sat in complete absorption.

“I do, Louise, I really enjoy it.”

Saturday, January 15, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt six)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

The evil! The mysterious potency of evil. She could see it all the time, in individuals, in society, in the press. There it was in socialism and bolshevism: the same evil. But bolshevism made a mess of the outside of life, so turn it down. Try fascism. Fascism would keep the surface of life intact, and carry on the undermining business all the better. All the better sport. Never draw blood. Keep the hæmorrhage internal, invisible.

And as soon as fascism makes a break--which it is bound to, because all evil works up to a break—then turn it down. With gusto, turn it down.

Mankind, like a horse, ridden by a stranger, smooth faced, evil rider. Evil himself, smooth-faced and pseudo-handsome, riding mankind past the dead snake, to the last break. Mankind no longer its own master. Ridden by this pseudo-handsome ghoul of outward loyalty, inward treachery, in a game of betrayal, betrayal, betrayal. The last of the gods of our era, Judas supreme!

Friday, January 14, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt five)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

“I don't want intimacy, mother. I'm too tired of it all. I love St. Mawr because he isn't intimate. He stands where one can't get at him. And he burns with life. And where does his life come from, to him? That's the mystery . That great burning life in him, which never is dead. Most men have a deadness in them that frightens me so, because of my own deadness. Why can't men get their life straight, like St. Mawr, and then think? Why can't they think quick, mother: quick as a woman: only farther than we do? Why isn't men's thinking quick like fire, mother? Why is it so slow, so dead, so deadly dull?”

“I can't tell you, Louise. My own opinion of the men of today has grown very small. But I can live in spite of it.”

Thursday, January 13, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt four)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

Mrs. Witt, happily on the war-path, was herself again. She didn't care for work, actual work. But she loved trimming. She loved arranging unnatural and pretty salads, devising new and piquant-looking ice-creams, having a turkey stuffed exactly as she knew a stuffed turkey in Louisiana, with chestnuts and butter and stuff, or showing a servant how to turn waffles on a waffle-iron, or to bake a ham with brown sugar and cloves and a moistening of rum. She liked pruning rose-trees, or beginning to cut a yew-hedge into shape. She liked ordering her own and Louise's shoes, with an exactitude and a knowledge of shoe making that sent the salesmen crazy. She was a demon in shoes. Reappearing from America, she would pounce on her daughter. "Louise, throw those shoes away. Give them to one of the maids.”—“But, mother, they are some of the best French shoes. I like them.”—"Throw them away. A shoe has only two excuses for existing: perfect comfort or perfect appearance. Those have neither. I have brought you some shoes.”—Yes, she had brought ten pairs of shoes from New York. She knew her daughter's foot as she knew her own.

So now she was in her element, looming behind Lewis as he sat in the middle of the yard swathed in a dust-sheet. She had on an overall and a pair of wash leather gloves, and she poised a pair of long scissors like one of the fates. In her big hat she looked curiously young, but with the youth of a bygone generation. Her heavy-lidded, laconic grey eyes were alert, studying the groom's black mop of hair. Her eyebrows made thin, uptilting black arches on her brow. Her fresh skin was slightly powdered, and she was really handsome, in a bold, bygone, eighteenth-century style. Some of the curious, adventurous stoicism of the eighteenth century: and then a certain blatant American efficiency.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt three)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

It seemed as if the whole Park, that morning, were in a state of nervous tension. Perhaps there was thunder in the air. But St. Mawr kept on dancing and pulling at the bit, and wheeling sideways up against the railing, to the terror of the children and the onlookers, who squealed and jumped back suddenly, sending the nerves of the stallion into a rush like rockets. He reared and fought as Rico pulled him round.

Then he went on: dancing, pulling, springily progressing sideways, possessed with all the demons of perversity. Poor Rico's face grew longer and angrier. A fury rose in him, which he could hardly control. He hated his horse, and viciously tried to force him to a quiet, straight trot. Up went St. Mawr on his hind legs, to the terror of the Row. He got the bit in his teeth, and began to fight.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt two)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

She wanted to buy St. Mawr.

She wanted him to belong to her. For some reason the sight of him, his power, his alive, alert intensity, his unyieldingness, made her want to cry.

She never did cry: except sometimes with vexation, or to get her own way . As far as weeping went, her heart felt as dry as a Christmas walnut. What was the good of tears, anyhow ? You had to keep on holding on, in this life, never give way, and never give in. Tears only left one weakened and ragged.

But now , as if that mysterious fire of the horse’s body had split some rock in her, she went home and hid herself in her room, and just cried. The wild, brilliant, alert head of St. Mawr seemed to look at her out of another world . It was as if she had had a vision, as if the walls of her own world had suddenly melted away, leaving her in a great darkness, in the midst of which the large, brilliant eyes of that horse looked at her with demonish question, while his naked ears stood up like daggers from the nakedlines of his inhuman head, and his great body glowed red with power.

Monday, January 10, 2022

the last book I ever read (D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr, excerpt one)

from St. Mawr by D. H. Lawrence:

They couldn't get away from one another, even though in the course of their rather restrained correspondence he informed her that he was “probably” marrying a very dear girl, friend of his childhood, only daughter of one of the oldest families in Victoria. Not saying much.

He didn't commit the probability, but reappeared in Paris, wanting to paint his head off, terribly inspired by Cezanne and by old Renoir. He dined at the Rotonde with Lou and Mrs. Witt, who, with her queer democratic New Orleans sort of conceit, looked round the drinking-hall with savage contempt, and at Rico as part of the show. “Certainly, ” she said, " when these people here have got any money, they fall in love on a full stomach. And when they've got no money , they fall in love with a full pocket. I never was in a more disgusting place. They take their love like some people take after-dinner pills.”

Sunday, January 9, 2022

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

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

I knew then (not that I didn’t really know before, but some lessons have to be learned and relearned, and even then we forget them so easily and talk ourselves into something ameliorating and hopeful) that the food-stores were going to remain empty, and that schools would be without books, and the air would be filled with cruel, duplicitous promises, that justice would be just another word brayed from the mouths of the donkeys who rule us, and of course the toilets were going to remain blocked for a long time. If, with all that was waiting for him to do, our chief found time to concern himself with the intimate and pathetic doings of my existence and the unthinking meannesses of my family, then there was little else to do but hope that the funding from the Scandinavian cultural institute would turn up and keep the ramshackle ship of state afloat. If our chief, who was rumoured to be the best of them, could only fill his head with such gossip, nothing could be expected of the rest. They had long ago turned into organs of consumption and penetration, prehensile tools of self-gratification.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

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

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

There was more frenzy on the plane itself, with arguments over seats and luggage space. The boarding cards showed every passenger’s seat reservation, so it could only be a habituated fear of being short-changed and screwed by officials that prompted the anxiety, though perhaps some of the more obstinate contestants were in it just for the love of hassle. The staff of the Kenya Airways flight kept well out of it for a while, then moved in with ruthless courtesy and managed to get everyone seated in a little less than half an hour. I found myself in a middle seat with a beautiful Indian woman on the window side of me and a plump man in his sixties (I’d guess) in the aisle seat. When I sat down next to the man, he gave me a long, unwelcoming stare, and punished me throughout the flight by releasing a series of foul-smelling farts. After a while I could see them coming. He would make a small shuffling movement, and that would be the signal that something was on the way. It seemed that every small adjustment he made to his body released poisonous fumes. As you may imagine, life became ever harder after he had had his airline meal. I learnt to respect that man’s quiet assurance over the next seven hours.

Friday, January 7, 2022

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

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

It was in this casual way that I was invited to put the noose around Safiya’s neck and drag her into the shambles of my life. In reality, my mother’s question was forcing the matter to a crisis, my crisis, not the resolution she thought she was bringing about by firm insistence. No escape. My audience waited: Rukiya, Akbar, my mother. Should we not fetch my stepfather? Should he not be here at the execution, to hear me ask forgiveness before submission? They waited, words of approbation lying coiled alongside sour words of blame.

I gathered myself and give it to them, relishing the impact that I knew I was going to make. Here it is, this is how it really is, a lot worse than you could have imagined and nothing much can be done about it.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

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

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

‘What is it that the project will translate?’ I asked. ‘You still haven’t told me about the details yet.’

‘The great books of the world,’ he said, I think with some relief and certainly not with a triumphant bark of appropriation, but in a voice of mildly beseeching modesty. ‘We want to make the profound thoughts they contain available to ordinary people. Of course, the project will work out its own priorities but I would’ve though it would probably want to begin with Shakespeare, Marx, Tolstoy and Hemingway. As perhaps you know, the Rais of our Federal Republic is very fond of Hemingway, and he is himself a translator of Shakespeare. Marx we need so that people can have a firmer understanding of the democractic socialism which is the governing ethos of our state, and Tolstoy for his sympathy with the peasants and the masses.’

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

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

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

When the war came it was possible to do a different kind of business. (He grinned at this point, and although he did not say so, I knew from somewhere I can no longer remember that in the early Forties he had spent a month in prison for smuggling.) Everything was short and rationed, the British needed it for their own people, who were far more important than us. So whatever you could find – rice, sugar, simsim, millet – even if it was of poor quality, there was always a good market for it. Peeple learnt to eat jaggery and brown rice and shellfish when before they would have spurned such food as fit only for servants and heathens.

It was difficult to get news of the war. There were no radios then, or very few, and those who owned radios kept quiet about it because they were afraid they would be confiscated. The British were nervous about everything, so we guessed that things were not going well for them. It was not a surprise. We knew the Germans and how they made war. Some of the riff-raff here joined up, and some young people who were still at school did so too, because they were promised that they would be sent to a big college when they returned, and would all become doctors and lawyers. It’s a good thing you didn’t become a lawyer, their business is to cheat. Or a policeman, because if you are a policeman and they order you to arrest your mother you have no choice but to obey, and God has said Honour your father and your mother after Me. So if you become a policeman, you are also saying that you are prepared to disobey God if the need arises. Anyway, they were sent to Abyssinia to fight the Italians and to Burma to fight the Japanese, and we didn’t see them again until the end of the war, those who came back. The ones who had joined up from school asked about their big college, and they were sent to the teachers’ college in Beit-el-Ras, and others became policemen after all.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

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

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

I didn’t act like a boy-victim-hero out of a Dickens novel, not that bad. But I could have done better. I could have been resourceful, charming, brave. I wasn’t brave, I could have done better. Perhaps that was why my stepfather left me to myself. I had the opportunity, the connection, the forbearance of circumstances, the contacts (his), and I chose to act like a stepson. Nor do I remember that time tragically. There were stories, in the first place, stories to fill the hours and the mind in the contest with life, to lift the ordinary into metaphor, to make it seem that the time of my passing was a choice in my hands, that there was method in the manner of my coming and my going. This is what stories can do, they can push the feeble disorders we live with out of sight.

Monday, January 3, 2022

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

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

As we were waiting to disembark, my companion was back at work with his towel, smiling at my nervousness and wishing me luck with benignly mailicious glee. The heat and smell of the earth struck me as if for the first time. I didn’t remember it like that, not the humid fumes of decomposing vegetation and baking earth which made me heave for breath. The terminal building was new, squat and anonymous, all glass and steel, with a viewing balcony on the first floor. Some way to the right was the old building, looking small and decorative with its crenellations and red-tiled roof and heavy wooden railings, like a pavilion in an ornamental garden or a villa on a Mediterranean hillside. As we walked across the tarmac I felt as exposed as if I had stepped off the plane naked, or as if my clothes were too baggy or too tight, or too colourful and ridiculous, as if I were a refugee from a circus. I looked out for familiar faces on the balcony, and I saw one that seemed as if it could be my stepfather. After such a long time, and from such a distance, I could not be sure, so I waved to be on the safe side. The man I had waved to stared for a moment and looked behind him, then turned back towards me with a look of surprise. He was too young to be my stepfather, I could see that now.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

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

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

‘I went to see the doctor this morning,’ I told her when she came back, pausing briefly to get a decent bit of tension going. ‘He told me my heart was buggered.’

She stood very still for a moment, waiting. ‘What do you mean, buggered?’

‘That’s what the doctor said. Perhaps we should look it up in a medical dictionary. I just assumed he meant it was defective in some important way.’

“But didn’t he say what was wrong?’ she asked, looking quite distraught. That was nice.