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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Saturday, 31 May 2008

My first stop these next couple of days is Belfast where I have to complete an overdue errand and then I shall have to rush back again to Dublin to catch my flight mid-week. It's always a pleasure as the people in Northern Ireland are a joy. They're one of the most friendliest people I know.

Friday, 30 May 2008

One of the reasons for my slight delay is that I've been tossing things around in my head to see if I can squeeze in one more country besides East Africa if I so dare. I think it can be done. Although I'll be visiting London on my return to Dublin, that doesn't count in the least maybe because of its familiarity. London is like a second home to me. I want to go to a place that offers me the same thrill as Africa but a different continent.


At present, I'm reading Helen Oyeyemi's The Oppposite House. Oyeyemi, a young Nigerian novelist first came to light in London with The Icarus Girl published in 2005. She's also written a couple of plays that have been published by Methuen. She hasn't won awards as such but is heralded as an important writer of new African voices.

I've bought so many books this last week...the other day I almost made off with a translated Hebrew title - nominated for IMPAC - and which I already owned. I remembered this in the nick of time. My bookshelves are in front of my computer as I write and looking at them gives me a warm huggy feeling although they're pretty much cluttered. I'm still trying to figure out what light paperbacks to take in my bag.


I'm travelling light with just one clothes bag. Jeans, tees, a few toiletries and souvenirs. It's always easier to buy what one needs along the way as and when.


There was such a to-do in the garden today. A party of birds making a right flutter, chirruping nine to the dozen. They may have been excited about seeing the proud sun that only flanked its rays for a few minutes. It's been a cold cloudy summer so far.


Thursday, 29 May 2008

Sorry once again as I did say I would write something today but was simply unable to get down to it. I should be okay posting something good tomorrow. I am running late with my trip or maybe it stems from a reluctance to leave my comfy little bliss in Dublin. It's been cloudy, rainy, windy but there is a tendency with me to love a city deeply once I know I'll be leaving it...even if it's just for awhile. I won't be going to Africa this week after all but early next week.
Will tell you what I've been up to, tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Dear everyone,
Sorry for being so late with my posts. Will write one later today (Thursday).

Monday, 26 May 2008

Today is still the calm before the storm.
I am glad you all like this little blog. I was really tired of the old one. Do you know I wanted to get rid of this as well yesterday? It's pretty and decorative and the header unless I change it, features an old sampan in Malay (the national language of Malaysia) meaning wooden fishing boat. It's pronounced as sarm-parn.
But a few of you said you liked this very much. I just thought in the end that it was too decorative and I couldn't do much with it. I have in the midst of all my haphazard clutter a strong urge of late to host a literary/books blog featuring obscure classics, my own reads, translated works, world literature etc. It will be a very serious blog. Mostly essay-ish with book reviews and author interviews. The thing is I have dabbled with all these interests in the past but feel that I want to plunge right in now.
However, I was in a dilemma as I know my loyal acquaintances - who have known me for 2 years now, I think - like to read what I normally write. So I'll have 2 and the other may command a different readership. This will capture what goes on with me and if it's too mundane, you always have a choice not to read it, I guess.
I also want to publish something when I return. That would be my next venture after Africa. Publish a book of something...
And then I will travel again to promote it to the right audience, depending on what I choose to write or on what foreign culture I may choose to adopt as influences.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

I have to be in East Africa this week and I haven't yet done a single thing properly. But then I was always an eleventh hour woman.


by Suzan Abrams

Hide from me. Do not cry. I must go but will return. I will come to you in the morning light. On that day, the moon will shine at noon. A smile will garland my face and bless the footsteps of my coming. I am your angel in the darkness, the glide of your fantasy in the slivers of your shiver. When you freeze at my statued halo, you will know I staged my promise. Lay the coffin and let it melt into the sand. I stay hidden in the land that greets your waiting hand.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Writings: Iced Dialogue

by Suzan Abrams


I thought of you but you forgot me. I spied you on the road to Cairo when you left me behind. How do I make a lamentation? Who do I see to be free? Cast me from your spirit and I will retain the liberty to be applicable once more for my sins even as they flee a high latitude. I wait without a sound on the dead ground. Do not hide from me as I worship you in the significance of my dilemma. I am tired. Tired from the sheer exhilaration of my being. Tired from the shell I lie encased, curled like a broken pearl. Tired from the rain that waters the pain in my feet from where I walk the road to find you.


But I don't want to be found and desire to lie beneath the mound. Keep me always in the figment of your imagination although if you wait and watch, I may be seen in the eyes of the sun.

Free clip art courtesy of Feebleminds

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

I am at a sudden phase in my life when I am thinking of things forgotten, gone and lost.


by Suzan Abrams

The fisherman, the farmhand and the flower in her band,
they all served to romance up their land of silvered sand.

He would have married her if he could,
the temptation of frolic for an ill-spent youth.

But her smile so dashing sent men's hearts a-crashing,
like boulders that led waves up, a giant fountain shoot.

All day long they skipped on the beach with the swing of dance,
a banana leaf for a serenade and he would grab his sudden chance.

A ring on her finger in the sunlight yonder,
would he remember to kneel, cry and duly surrender?

But he sang and he smiled and he teased her waiting heart,
as she dialled the cone shell for the sea that cried, they kiss and part.

Still, they caressed and they waltzed, like lanterns in the night,
and her desire soon awakened like sunrise from the light.

Could a playboy be reborn in the self-effacing dawn?
Soon he was gone and her heart lay sodden, shocked and torn.

Monday, 12 May 2008

As the date gets closer to East Africa, I am like a migratory bird, impatient to start its flight and eager for little else. Like a noisy cinematic reel of old, that strange whirring excitement at the prospect of a spontaneous adventure comes racing back and I hear its drone even as I once recall dashing off into the night, on a whim. My trip as always, is not a planned tour. I will simply live the moment and explore each day as it comes. The kindest part promises to be the intimacy of old haunts. Tomorrow is when I call the hotel I once loved and hope like anything my favourite acquaintances are still there.

By the way, I am at this moment reading John Banville's The Book of Evidence - which is a novel that holds the voice of a society gentleman confessing to a horrific crime he sees as the most ordinary circumstance. Why all the fuss he asks, when questioned about smashing his maid's head with a hammer. He has also stolen a valuable painting in the process. The maid got in his way and annoyed him, he frowns. Wouldn't anyone have done the same? And yet the character with his regal air, cannot for the life of himself understand why he stole the painting. That would to him, seem the more disastrous occurrence.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Reading Friends and Relations by Elizabeth Bowen

by Suzan Abrams

Last night over a glass of wine, I finished reading Elizabeth Bowen's novel, Friends and Relations with astonishing alacrity. Here then a famous old Bowen paperback and one that I had happily stumbled on the day before, at the popular market square in Temple Bar, while straining to the feet-tapping tunes of a faraway fiddle.

The ancient-stained dog-eared paperback had been squeezed confidently enough into a hardy cardbox box with stacks of priceless reads. My book which is a reprinted 1946 version features an outdated orange Penguin cover. The novel was first published in 1931. Someone had pencilled the number 63 on it. The signature of a Mr. Peter M. Nelson rushed across the first page in a bold scrawl shaped from black ink. Soon after, this was followed by an assortment of messy jottings. In an instant, I wanted to make the little scarred book mine and treasure it as an unexpected gift from a long ago invisible reader who may well as easily I remind myself, be sadly dead!

While the story featuring discreet gossip and high-living amongst a family of gossipy cousins, lonely widows, husbands, wives and sisterly rivalry had caught me with rapt attention...so much that I read the book with a greedy absorption; I had turned the pages in a far swifter manner than I intended, so intent was I on the family skeletons that threatened to poke out with dangerous and glinting expressions from under the upper-crust genteel lifestyle of a wealthy English home; in this typical austere Modern novel. Of course, beneath the vivid descriptions of cotton sundresses, studied dinner parties and holiday trips to Britanny, each character's restless emotions and enduring vulnerability caterpillar-ed through the plot with the same starched intensity as any other lover bent on a turbulent and forbidden affair might.

Bowen takes her time with the engaging pursuit of nosy gossip. She spends the first half of her book, kindly sketching well-meaning relations and close-knit friends at play with a similar sunny rigamarole to that of say, musical chairs. The soap-opera-ish drama hits the reader like a sudden thunderclap only from the middle section.

In the way of meddlesome gossip and secret liaisons, comedy is evident. A number of people may come and leave the room all at once, doing altogether different things at the very same time. Bowen's talent at capturing important crowded scenes with grace and elegance could make a reader feel poised for a noisy party flair on the ready. The wry humour is subtly drawn from failings and confusions tailed at different courses of the plot. It feels like having something stuck between your teeth. There you are trying to read a serious novel when all you really want to do is to afford it a broad smile. Oh..for the itch of a niggling toothpick-clad humour.

There's also a serene portrait of a younger Elizabeth Bowen at the back of the book. It was quite interesting to read her rare lines where she said that the "writing occupation" took up all of her time so that she never owned a hobby. Any free time she had was afforded to travel. She loved visiting other lands, could not keep still for too long and would often take off to her two favourite countries, France and Italy. Elizabeth Bowen's ancestors came from Wales, although she was born in Dublin. Married to Alan Cameron of the BBC, Bowen made her home in London. She also said she liked the country particularly Kent and Oxfordshire and she loved going to films on the outset of a spare moment.

Credit: Picture of an older Elizabeth Bowen courtesy of EPDLP.com

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Saturday, 10 May 2008

I have been buying books a fair bit these last few days. I bought five novels yesterday and another three today. This doesn't include the usual literary reviews and one of my favourite magazines which is Vanity Fair. By the way, the cover for the newest edition of the New Yorker is simply splendid.

My choice is always an eclectic mix as I just can't limit myself to one class of books. I love fiction and of late, non-fiction, poetry and plays and I tend to go where an exuberant mood takes me. I can't shake off the feeling that I am poorly read especially when I happen upon a delightful bookshelf and catch enough dreamy titles and strange adventures to fill an ocean. It would take a good five lifetimes, I think to complete reading all of my favourite stories alone even if I stayed anchored to just one place. There'd still be room for more. Perhaps, it's a case of 'wonders never ceasing'. :-)

I have just finished Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture. It was a rather difficult story to absorb and the narration is conducted the way the old Irish might have spoken English. Or rather it reminds me a lot of the late Sean O' Faolain's musical flow to his storytelling prose. The characters although not lovers, stayed woeful and romantically tragic. The gripping story is incredibly sad and destined to get sadder still. The story that still pulls at my heartstrings, ends on a deeply poignant note but with its sure lining of hope.

I bought more Elizabeth Bowen novels as I adore her exquisite use of language as a pure art form and hers is one of the exciting forms of the Modern novel that I'd like to be acquainted with.

Today, at the market square in Temple Bar, I picked up 4 obscure titles - long out of print. These included Rabrindranath Tagore's The Housewarming and Other Selected Writings, the 1930's famed naturalist and painter Joanna Field's diary called A Life of One's Own and an Iris Murdoch title I missed although I stay intrigued by her fiction with their overpowering philosophical attributes and have in this guise, read almost everything. This chunky fare was called The Message to the Planet. The market square is a lovely place to shop for outrageous titles. Quite a few booksellers have set up shop, come the summer. I go to my favourite one where because of customer loyalty if anything, I can be sure of a generous discount. The square is surrounded by pubs, sidewalk cafes and buskers.

I'm at a stage in my life where I just want to read as much as I can and have made the space for this. I hope to pick up some Arabic and Japanese literature next. The last I read was Junichiro Tanizaki's Seven Japanese Tales.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

I was out enjoying the sunshine yesterday. The warmth triggers bliss. Everyone I met seemed happy. Temple Bar with its tourists, is far more crowded then usual. But colourful scenes abound with the buskers, painters and musicians! A right picture of theatrical merriment. I always seem to leave places during the good times, although I'll be back in the height of summer.

At the moment, I'm halfway through Irish novelist and playwright, Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture. Barry is also a wonderful actor to his own narration, as I recently discovered, when I went to hear him read at Trinity College. His writing can hardly be faulted. In The Secret Scripture, Barry mimics the cracked whispers of an ancient crone believed to be 100 years old, recalling her days of flushed youth amidst poverty and survival in old Ireland. The prose sounds musical in that sing-song-ish tavern way and it all feels a bit like reading a heartwarming Irish classic as in say, Maria Edgeworth. As he performed an excerpt, Barry cackled through the old lady's expressions and playacted a weary hunchback with her talent for darting back from fear with passionate alacrity.

My yellow fever vaccination is scheduled for next Wednesday and I should be ready to go after that if I want. I lost my world health card somewhere in London a couple of years ago. All I'll do is a lug a light bag of clothes with a few books and I'll be set for my travel to Nairobi first of all. I'm also taking in the Zanzibar and am going to attempt my half-finished novel and children's story. It doesn't matter after embarking on all the sights, smells and sounds of beautiful East Africa, that I complete my stories in Dublin, on my return. It's just that I need a fresh start to my writing and to recapture the flavour of a land I love. This time round, I'll also be studying East African literature in an enthusiastic new light.

I'll still be filling in my blog, in Africa.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Tomorrow, I shall have to wake up from my comfy Dublin slumber and start making arrangements for East Africa. I thought to go away for about 3 weeks to a month. I'll stop in London on my way back. The first thing I'll have to do is to call the hotel I knew so intimately for years and to where I haven't been back for the last 3. The idea fills me with excitement. Of all the countries I have lived in, I really adore East Africa. The land and its people are eternally beautiful.
If all is well with the hotel that faces the Indian Ocean - because there had been talk of a sale or takeover even then - I'll ask about my old acquaintances and if I can't locate them just now, I'll try very hard to find them when I'm there. The beach isn't safe for a woman to walk on alone. The hotel always sent a couple of Masai guards to accompany me in the past. I'll use the same tour company I've always known to go on safari. I hope the staff haven't changed. They were a friendly lot. I still remember their names. Florence, Dio, Paulo...
This time round, I'd probably be poking around the bookshops in the atmospheric market streets more than usual. I'll be taking my half-finished stories of Africa that hopefully now, I'd be able to complete them with the right flavour and authenticity. I hate my stories even if they are fictitious, coming across as fake. Hopefully, this travel experience will rejuvenate my writing once more. My motivation really needs new breath.
I won't be going yet for about 3 weeks or so.

Monday, 5 May 2008

I've just discovered a 19th century British playwright, Arthur W. Pinero (1855-1934), who turned to plays after what he himself had sadly admitted to an average acting career. It doesn't perhaps do as much to speak for my lack of a stage education as it does quite happily for my treasured find.

One more dramatist to add to my happy clutter.

As it happens, Pinero turned out to be an illustrious playwright, with some of his works showing at the Globe Theatre. These included tantalizing titles like The Schoolmistress, The Magistrate, Daisy's Escape, The Squire and Sweet Lavender amongst others.

It's thrilling to contemplate a larger catalogue of plays this summer. This evening, I finished reading one of Pinero's finest works in 4 acts, called The Second Mrs Tanqueray, written in 1894.

The essential thing about play-reading is that you have to contend with the dialogue and not the prose. For a start, it's easier to recall quotes and the odd, bruised emotion. If you get the chance to catch the performance later on, a hushed awe may just shroud your gaze as you reflect on the exaggerated flamboyance of character and voice on stage. The imagination is not intruded upon but instead taken to an exhilarating ride on say, cabel cars, or otherwise, picture a mannequin come to life. That's the feeling from having applauded a resurrected play from the staid, written word.

This for me, personally differs with the novel. A novel so empowers my imagination with theories and philosophies that may stretch out subconsciously for the rest of my destiny, that a cinematic adaptation could only injure the prospect of watching the idea of fiction turn real. Characters on a visual reel seem far more inferior, uglier or weaker than what I may have conjured them up to be.

The Second Mrs. Tanqueray probes an upper-crust society engaged in the universal dilemma of jealousy, heartbreak, yearning, loss, acceptance and resignation. Scenes take place in a country manor while players discuss the Parisian party scene. The conventions of sophisticated living are never diminished even while surrounded with a simpler rustic backdrop.

This too, fringed by the fussy protocol that shapes the grace and elegance of everyday living complete with chandeliers and crystal glasses. In a society where class and status rule over an unmeasured, less cautious romance, a rich widower, Aubrey, marries a repentant lady Paula (Mrs. Tanqeray) once famous for her many past lovers. Unfortunately, she holds dark secrets and succeeds in turning his life upside down. In a cosmopolitan civilisation, happiness seems harder to strive for. Not one hair strand out of place. Not one rule invented from self-righteousnes to be broken.

At first, Paula is selfish and jealous of Aubrey's devoted attention to his 19-year old daughter, Elleen whom he perceives as saintly. Paula yearns for Aubrey's devotion in the same way but feels all she's left with is a secondhand respect. She often whines and is petulant. Yet in the face of jealousy, Paula reveals her softer side, showing vulnerability and gentleness. She is determined to be Elleen's friend and yearns for her company. In the face of selfishness, there may still exist goodness and Paula clearly wears her heart on her sleeve.

Yet the saintly Elleen, imbued with a Convent religion, shows distaste for Paula's sordid past and is cold. In the end, Paula's past works against her. The hypocrisy of the self and the darkly haunting way in which skeletons may suddenly jump out of the closet to create family disasters, form the theme of the play. When it is discovered that Mrs. Tanqueray has once shared Elleen new escort, tears reign.

If you're new to play-reading and would like to take up the challenge, Pinero is a good place to start. His scripts are lavish and expansive and his settings (props) rich and opulent. There appear to be grandeur everywhere and Pinero is extravagant with props. You could just feel you're reading a short story with instant high drama. Pinero's play reminds of an American classic with all the tempting house parties in an era close to the Civil War. Whereas one of my other favourites Henrik Ibsen manipulates his players like marionettes. Their movements and dialogue are stilted and robotic.


When Mugabe married Zimbabwe

by Suzan Abrams

Captioned is a picture of Robert Mugabe on his wedding day. I had written this little rhyme in about 10 minutes for a thread on the Guardian Books Blog.

Mugabe was Zimbabwe's tsunami,
he stole the wealth of a tired country.
He ate its bread, he grabbed the property,
he chose a young sweetheart for his greedy honey.
Mugabe will go now to where *Hatcliffe lives,
begging for a second election...begging for belief.
But the poor will ask what's happened to the crops,
and offer stale beer from ramshackle *bottle shops.
He'll feed them nothing as they leave him something.
oh Mugabe, he's eerie...they'll sing to be free.


*Hatcliffe : poorest village on the outskirts of Harare. (21 km north).
*bottle shop: a shanty bar where locals meet to drink beer.

Picture courtesy of AfricanCrisis

Saturday, 3 May 2008

I have almost finished with a novel called, A Clockwork Apple.
There was once a brilliant one called A Clockwork Orange.
Des says he is now writing a novel himself called A Clockwork Pineapple.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Today, I finished reading Elizabeth Bowen's novel called The House in Paris, known to be one of her best works, tackling an intricate web of complicated relationships. Yet I was glad that far from deciding on a sardonic wit and the easier pessimistic approach, Bowen industriously weaved the subtle interplay of optimism into almost every chapter with a dignified cheer and especially towards the close of the slightly-tragic tale.

In about six hours, I had read all 239 pages including the commentary beforehand, featuring more then a few eccentric and disturbing personalities. This complete with a series of their appropriate forbidden histories that were tied to a ridiculously strict and eerie French boarding house.

Although a pre-war novel with a fascinating Continental feel comprising steamers, trunks and trains, the rich plot with several everyday confusions, still slips easily into this day and age, as various human temperaments with all their follies, stay timeless and that the very notion of time 'passing swiftly' still offers befuddlement to the senses.

I found the story passionate in unexpected ways, gripping, but also ruthless with the very idea that a romantic love should be considered at all; and properly atmospheric too in that smouldering honeyed way. This when you think that each descriptive line was carefully penned out to seduce the imagination with grace and charm.

Characters featuring interesting regal mannerisms, appeared detached and needy with equal intensity. Vividly sketched narrations of household objects and seasonal flourishings clouded thoughts with a spellbinding sense of romanticism.

High drama could be spun from the most ordinary situations and melancholic moods could just as well draw all to a halt.

Famous for her elegant and austure approach, Bowen's attention to detail with her sharply-drawn observations on character and settings, was so meticulous in this Modern novel, that I could only absorb the book in total silence, if I wanted to recieve something priceless at all. Mine was the reader's attempt at a reverential Convent approach in which to receive the august Anglo-Irish author's memory and her plea through a distinctive measure of words for a necessary cautioned silence.

With reluctance, I turned off the low drone of the cello although I would pleasantly will any form of classical music playing in the background, when I read indoors. But it was worth it. Each of Bowen's words led the reader to think it could contain a heartbeat.

I'm now about to start on Belinda Webb's A Clockwork Apple.


An e-book publisher wrote to me about a week ago, to ask if I would like to upload my stories and get paid for them with every customer purchase. Although I relished the initial thought with excitement, I completely forgot about the proposition until now and can only hope they'll be forgiving. :-)

E-publishing seems to be going places with their many innovative ideas (no exaggeration) and I shall place some publishing news here soon.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

I have 5 poems printed on this site called Badosa and the title is Stoking the Fire.

My poems are called:

The Gossip & her Husband,
Hanging the Laundry,
The Dead Sea,
Old Age &

This is my first attempt at sending my work out after a long while. I hope I can keep steady with the submissions so that my writing doesn't end up in a locked drawer.