Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Another to survive my cull

The first novel I read by Abdulrazak Gurnah
 was By the Sea.  Like Paradise, the one I'm reading now, it survived my series of book culls. Gurnah's writing, as you'd expect from a winner of The Nobel Prize, is faultless, expansive, thought provoking. 

His writing proves he understands and loves people. It has that quality essential to all success, empathy and an ability to connect. I am at the point in Paradise, when I am afraid, not of the brilliant characters he's introduced me to, but of European expansion within the continent of Africa. He is showing it as it happens. 

These two novels of his both speak to the reason why he was awarded the Nobel Prize this year, "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents."

Friday, November 12, 2021

Heron by a pond in Utrecht

When I saw the heron at a pond in Kanalenailand I remembered the herons of Amsterdam and from then on, from my first day to my last, there were birds. 

from manuscript Der Naturen Bloem
by Jacob van Maerlant, 14th century Dutch poet
Utrecht is a large, prosperous, booming city. I've never seen so many shops. But in the district where Giya lives, like others around the city, there are strips of canal, ponds, a vast river and greenery. You pass an enormous weeping willow when you come off the tram. 

Although this is seven minutes on the tram from the city centre there are ducks, moorhens and herons and above them, a constant conversation between gulls, crows and pigeons. I didn't see lots of smaller birds, although I heard starlings singing as they gathered to roost one evening. 

It's the first time I've been able to visit my daughter's new home and it felt like another (there are so many) new stage of our lives. 

Their flat is warm, light, welcoming. From the living room you look out onto trees and grass. The sun streams in through big picture windows. She's happy. 

In the city and their neighbourhood I didn't see a single drunk, hear anyone shouting or fighting. I slept until 9. On my way home I saw migrating geese. Brighton seemed a world away and I was glad of that.