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This report is taken from PN Review 231, Volume 43 Number 1, September - October 2016.

Amis De Voyage Vahni Capildeo
THE MEMORY of having read a book is like kissing with synæsthesia. I owe this simile to the woman who ran the bead shop near Helmsley walled garden in Yorkshire. She confided that she experienced a special form of synæsthesia: she felt kisses in terms of colour. As a child, she mostly gave soft pink and periwinkle blue kisses. When forced to salute a grown-up she disliked, she would bestow a black kiss. When she really loved someone, the kiss was gold. Despite the grey-and-black cover of Borges’s Poems of the Night in the imperfect Penguin dual-language edition, I remember that book in terms of hot afternoons and hard substances: roses as if dissected into pietra dura stone petals; lengthened shadows, making every human figure part of a sundial. Despite the grey-green detail from the 1816 map, ‘Comparative View of the Heights of the Principal Mountains &c. in the World’, on the cover of Nicholas Laughlin’s The Strange Years of My Life (Peepal Tree, 2015), I remember that book in terms of blue sea thinking.

Is there a rule about not reviewing a friend’s book? Who is a friend? Someone known for a long time, or someone often remembered, or someone met briefly but intensely? Perhaps a friend is a writer whose process you know too much about. Trying to look at their work can be like viewing the world through glasses that have been scarred by sand particles in the air at the coast. You see everything marked by the direction of a wind that is no longer blowing; and you get a headache while appreciating the view. ...


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