Books…were the richest the richest human miniature. In their minuscule spaces, composed of rows of letters and thin pages, invisible worlds were imagined. Even though books produced their own distinct dust, they promised – as no other earthly thing had- to preserve writer and reader from death.”
It is the season of migration to the south. You bring gifts for friends and family to make up for your absence by showing that they were in your thoughts while you were away. That distance didn’t matter, but time did, and you took some to think and pick. For my books however nothing makes up for the distance, the further I go, and the longer I leave them, the more dust they collect. I try to make it up by dusting them. I always leave one half way through so I pick it up when I am back, as if nothing has happened. I am not sure they are convinced though. They know I have had to read a similar copy from the library, even though I desperately wanted my dog eared Bachelard, and my heavily highlighted Lefebvre, and my worn out Foucault. I really also hope that my eye in the sun forgives me borrowing a copy-I promise I didn’t finish it back there.
Goodreads tells me that this year in books started and ended in Cairo. There are loads of books I do not finish within a year, so I don’t log them in. Those I do are either fiction, or books I read to review. This is the year when I crash read, Radwa Ashour’s last autobiography, Arwa Saleh’s the Stillborn, and three of Iman Mersal poetry collections the last of which I have just finished right now. Of the million ways I want to tell my story, one of them will pass through these books. Not that I want to attach myself to their grand names in any way. On the contrary, it is because they manage to attach their grand names to the insignificances of everyday banalities like marking essays, hiding Walter Benjamin in the clothes of a suitcase, not knowing how to enter a campus sieged by police forces, and overall facing loss and melancholia in every waking hour. They are a trajectory of Egyptian female existence. One day I will betray them and try to write about them, not this year though.
Other readings include succumbing to hypes about Ferrante, I am still not sure. I enjoyed it, I related to it, and it hooked me while it lasted, I am not sure if it has marked me however, time will tell. The illustrated Rosa and Arendt, which are comfortable meetings with old friends. Some volumes about dust, because we have to come to terms with that which betrays us as well, and Cunnigham’s by nightfall which I forgave because the hours unfolded me in the past in ways that still affect me till today.
This is the year I re-read Saramgo’s all the names, perhaps the third or may be the fourth time. I will never say this enough. Saramago is my healing force. He reminds me of all the kindness towards humanity that I lack, and that I might potentially have in the future. His kindness overwhelms me, incapacitates me, renders me wordless. This is a year I walked in a cemetery next door in the company of his last chapters. It has been months now -when a plan has been set to write something about him. Writing is an act of betrayal. I always feel I am going to fail that what I attempt to write about. I only write about that which I am passionate about. Passion and betrayal might be one and the same thing in the end. This is the year I also read his manual of painting and calligraphy. His first published novel. there I could see a young Saramago trying to be crafty, like I try. A writer using his character, except that half way through the character takes over and the author is again watching over it with heartbreaking kindness. It gives me hope that eventually I will learn to let go, even if it is not this year. At least I try.