On Reading, Re-Reading

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“She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if waking from sleep with the heaviness of unremembered dreams.”

– Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient. Page 12.

I’m re-reading this book by one of my personal gods. It is sentences like this one I live for. See how he explores reading books, it’s a sub-theme in the book itself, as a human being dreaming? A girl.

I can’t wait to read the part I remember vividly; where she is reading from Kim, the line “he who hold zamzamah hold the Punjab”, and the burned character, Almasy, tells the girl Hana to read it slowly, that writers like Kipling looked up sometimes to look out the window. The natural cadence of writing remaining in the text written.

And, of course, Ondaatje has to be savoured, not read. A poet. I love his poem, “The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife” as well. This book, like that poem, is a subtle pageant of meanings.

What’s everyone reading?

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5 thoughts on “On Reading, Re-Reading”

  1. I haven’t read much of Ondaatje, which is a pity because obviously he is the sort of writer that I quickly give a place in my literary pantheon, alongside Nabokov, Joyce, Coetzee, Adichie, and a few others. I am still striving to get any of his books; most especially, The English Patient.

    On reading and re-reading: It is re-reading that counts. My first encounter with Dubliners left much to be desired. But my second . . . Few people can write such exquisite sentences. And third . . . Christos!

    The book on my table now is: Jeffery Eugenides’ Middlesex.

    1. Indeed I agree with you, only the rereading counts. There is something about returning to the landscape of a fiction that has formed you, it is like returning to ones hometown, with an eye clearer than what was left with. We reread as re-meeting someone we loved but could not have fully, we see such a lover clearly, and we see ourselves even more brutally clearly in them.

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