& occasionally about other things, too...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Princess of Serendip

Photo: Jason Chow Photography (http://jasonchowphotography.com/)

One always feels happy when a writer one has read gets some official recognition.

Later this month it’ll be time again for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Every year when the prize is announced, I realise – all over again – how little I know of world literature.

There are 105 winners since 1901. I can’t claim to have heard of more than 35 writers from that list, and only eight before they won. (I started reading seriously only in the late 1970s).

An aside: Wouldn’t it be great if Alice Munro or Margaret Atwood won the prize this year? After all, no Canadian has ever won the Nobel for Literature.

I read Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door if No Return recently, and wrote here about her incisive insight on Naipaul.

She is now the third poet-laureate of Toronto. That makes me happy. It’s also fitting tribute to the genius of a poet and writer who paints images with words and brings to life abstract feelings of emptiness.

Sample this:

“There is a sense in the mind of not being here or there, of no way out or in. As if the door has set up its own reflection. Caught between the two we live in the Diaspora, in the sea in between. Imagining our ancestors stepping through these portals one senses people stepping out into nothing; one senses a surreal space, an inexplicable space. One imagines people so stunned by their circumstances, so heartbroken as to refuse reality. Our inheritance in the Diaspora is to live in this inexplicable space. That space is the measure of our ancestors’ step through the door toward the ship. One is caught in the few feet in between. The frame of the doorway is the only space of true existence.”

Discovering Dionne Brand was serendipitous.


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