01 January 2008

Michael Ondaatje

[from Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero, 2007]

We returned to the car and drove towards Dému.

All my life I have loved travelling at night, with a companion, each of us discussing and sharing the known and familiar behaviour of the other. It's like a villanelle, this inclination of going back to events in our past, the way the villanelle's form refuses to move forward in linear development, circling instead at those familiar moments of emotion. Only the rereading counts, Nabokov said. So the strange form of that belfry, turning onto itself again and again, felt familiar to me. For we live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are songlike in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue. We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell.

There was now not a single lit streetlamp in the villages we passed, just our headlights veering and sweeping along the two-lane roads. We were alone in the world, in nameless and unseen country. I love such journeying at night. You have most of your life strapped to your back. Music on the radio comes faint and intermittent. You are wordless at last. Your friend's hand on your knee to make sure you are not drifting away. The black hedges coax you on.


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