Sunday, 13 June 2010

More Mueenuddin

I've finished In Other Rooms, Other Wonders - raced through it on friday afternoon when I was meant to be working. Mueenuddin seemed to go up a gear in the stories which are - must be - more autobiographical, the ones about privileged Pakistani exiles feeling at home neither in Pakistan nor anywhere else.

Putting the book down I was saddened by how impossible it was for any of his characters - not a single one - to achieve any kind of contentment. Perhaps true contentment is almost impossible. Does exquisite writing make up for that? Perhaps in trying to describe things as they really are - not as we have settled with ourselves that they are, in order to steal peace with the world and our place in it - we can never be satisfied, never be happy except for an instant, never not remember others' suffering. Never not hear the squirrel's heart beat that George Eliot described. But it seemed to me that every one of his characters would die not just alone but unhappy. Maybe understanding that is the sliver of ice in the heart that every writer needs. If that is true I'm not sure it's a bargain worth making.

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