Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Place Within

"Home is where your books are" is how Salman Rushdie answered Eleanor Wachtel's question the other night about where Rushdie's home is. He first noted that he is a person of the age, at home wherever he happens to be - New York City, or London or his childhood city of Bombay, India (I applaud his insistence that the place is Bombay, not Mumbai). He said that after moving hundreds of books from London to New York he knows he never wants to move again! But he noted that there's a certain feeling of "home" when he's in India. For an outstanding reflection on this return to childhood India theme, read Suketu Mehta's book, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found. Like Rushdie, Mehta is a New Yorker, having moved from Bombay at 14. In this book he returns to Bombay, "the biggest, fastest, richest city in India" after a 21 year absence. It is a fascinating look at contemporary India.

M.G. Vassanji, the Toronto writer, resembles Rushdie in his peripatetic ways, but notes on his website that, "If pressed, I describe myself as an IndoAfrican Canadian writer. Attempts to box me in I find abhorrent." His new book is a memoir in which he travels in India, a place his ancesters left in the 19th century, for Africa. He's looking for that feeling of "home" too (from Philip Marchand's National Post review): "Why this obsession with the past?" he asks himself. "I can only conclude that it reflects the deep dissatisfaction of unfinished, incomplete migrations, a perpetual homelessness in my life."
M.G. Vassanji is in Edmonton tonight promoting the new book, A Place Within: Rediscovering India at a reading put on by Laurie Greenwood. The event goes at 7:30 pm at The ARTery, that wee venue on the sketchy side of town (sorry - it's true! Lots of free parking is the bonus.) - 9535 Jasper Ave.

Marchand makes note of Paul Theroux's new travel book, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar, in his Vassanji review. As with Vassanji, he travels through India by train, 33 years after traveling around Asia for his classic book, The Great Railway Bazaar.


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