I sat inside The Enigma of Arrival for three weeks and in the middle I didn’t really read it at all but the spectre of it all managed to block any other book from view. What a small, sad book – how gorgeous and wonderful, over years and an ocean and mostly set in a small cottage in his mind.
And I know, had I been through it all in a weekend the impact would have been less, if anything at all; hardly a mark left. Three weeks inside with VS Naipaul. And I went to the bookstore two weeks ago, just before I became sick, and all I could buy was VS Naipaul, two more books: In A Free State and The Writer and The World, which is 500+ pages of collected essays. On the back of The Enigma Of Arrival, from the St Petersburg Times: “..maybe the most hypnotic book I’ve ever read.” And that’s true, I am glad it is through and I look at it now as a state of disbelief I went through. How many more pages and I might have thrown it all aside but as it is, a sad and wonderful book.
I looked at novels, a whole stack of them next to my bed, on the floor, but I went on into A Peace To End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin, a history prof in Boston. Written in 1989. I forget that this is where I come from. For four years I was excited about Canadian history but in Summer 2005 I took my first history course after declaring my major: HIST 225, Europe from French Revolution to WWI I think. I looked at one of the texts, I remember, The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire and just dreaded it, what a horrible dull thing but when I read it I couldn’t stop. And I went through the little text on the Balkans in a day. I bought A Peace To End All Peace at PulpFiction expecting to let it sit around until maybe, one day, someday I might read it. But here, three months later, it’s all I want to read. From The Great Game to The Hidden War to the Habsburgs all over again.