A big girl now; the stupid phrase careering through my head from the moment the plane took off from Heathrow. The great return. All these years of wondering how it woul be; so many others have risket it, some to tumultuous crowds, toyi-toying, shouting, singing; others slinking home along back ways. Not I. The day I’d left the country I’d sworn it would be for good. And I’d held, out, unyelding to all natural appeals. Then this phone call, and what else was to be done? I did not even stop to think. Only after I’ve already been assigned to a narrow fate on the plane, squeezed between two bulging businessmen – the one on my left, on the aisle, in textiles; the other a civil engineer; both drinking steadily, each intent on outwitting the other in setting up dates with me (the one on the aisle even suggesting moistly in my ear, at three in the morning, as the window-man, feigning sleep, attempts to slide his hand in under my blanket, that we decamp to a toilet) – it dawns on me that I am actually in my way home.
The world is what it is: men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.
Nazruddin, who had sold me the shop cheap, didn’t think I would have it easy when I took over. The country, like others in Africa, had had its troubles after independence. The town in the interior, at the bend in the great river, had almost ceased to exist, and Nazruddin said I would have to start from the beginning.
The cabin-passenger wrote in his diary a parody of Descartes: ‘I feel discomfort, therefore I am alive,’ then sat pen in hand with no more to record. The captain in a white soutane stood by the open windows of the saloon reading his breviary. There was not enough air to stir the fringes of his beard. The two of them had been alone together on the river for ten days – alone, that is to say, except for the six members of the African crew and the dozen or so deck-passengers who cahnged, almost indistinguishly, at each village where they stopped. The boat, which was the property of the Bishop, resembled a small battereed Mississippi paddle-steamer with a high nineteenth-century forestructure, the white paint badly in need of renewal. From the saloon windows they could see the river before them unwind, and below then on the pontoons the passengers sat and dressed their hair among the logs of wood for the engine.
I was born poor in rich America, yet my secret instincts were better than money and were for me a source of power. I had advantages that no one could take away from me–a clear memory and brilliant dreams and a knack for knowing when I was happy.
I was at my happiest leading two lives, and it was a satisfaction to me that the second one–of the dreamer or the sneak–I kept hidden. That was how I spent my first fifteen years. Fifteen was young then and I knew this: The poor don’t belong. But one summer out of loneliness or impatience my secodn self did more than wake and watch, and more than remember. He began to see like a historian, and he acted. I have to save my life, i used to think.
Seen from the air west of Cape Verde, at the westernmost point of Africa, in Senegal, the ocean sunrise, clear red-blue, turns an onimous yellow, and the sun itself is shrouded, ghostly, in this dust of the northeast trade wind of the dry season, known as the harmattan, that blows across the great Sahara desert. White birds and wave crests fleck a gray-blue sea, and the lean black pirogues of fishermen are very small off the rocky islet called Les Iles de la Madeleine. On the bare ground of the high cliffs astand the white mosques of Yoff, and beyond, low hills of Africa rise like shadows in hot winds that tilt the ragged wings of kites and scatter the dead paper of the world across Dakar.
Hvorfor jeg velger akkurat disse bøkene? Dette er bøker som har sprengt mine forestillingsrammer, og tvunget meg til å tenke ting jeg ikke har tenkt tidligere. Det er de bøkene jeg hadde lest om igjen hvis jeg ble nektet å lese nye bøker og måtte lese de jeg allerede har lest om igjen. Herved anbefalt, og ingen utfordret. Jeg er jo tross alt motstander av memer. 😉
De som nesten nådde opp
Det disse bøkene har til felles, er at de har gjort at jeg ikke har gitt slipp på drømmene mine.
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