About Me

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I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019 and I am now properly retired and trying to write a novel. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Monday, 25 March 2019

"Eros Island" by Tony Hanania

I found this a difficult book to understand. It jumped around in time and location and in between the story of the main protagonist and his first love and the story of the narrator's father and uncle, twins, who grew up as part of an Orthodox Christian(?) community in East Jerusalem and were forced to become refugees following the Israeli takeover of that city. I think.

Even the story of the narrator's love swings between his schooldays in a privileged English boarding-school and summer holidays on a Spanish island where he takes up with a set of teenagers which includes the girl he adores. But some of the characters seem to spread themselves between the two locations. And many of them merge into the narrator's subsequent life as a student in London at which point his world lurches into a world of sex and drugs and partying.

For most of the book I wasn’t sure what was going on. I’m still not clear. I need another go at it. But you don’t read this book for the plot.

You read it for the descriptions. This author has a distinctive voice. His paragraphs are often single sentences which wind on and on with wonderful words:
But on that afternoon you were late for the performance, across the stub-pocked carpet of the empty foyer a silver glare from the entrance-hall, at the counter a girl reading alone, a spread of softening brownies and carrot cakes, over the high window posters of forthcoming releases, a Kieslowski Memorial double-bill, a spoof Sixties spy film, the rigid suaveness of the star with pistol and gloves crossed over his chest like the effigy of a Pharaoh bearing his golden sceptres, his glamorous assistant in diminutive scale, as if a vassal queen.” (Book 1: 1997 September)
When the gardeners no longer came the tall grass concealed the coils of discarded snake skins fine as the gauze of surgical stockings, among the tall old books warped and mildewed from sea travel in the Illuminated volume of Jules Verne the pictures of the undersea mummies grey as a caterpillar hives in the stone pines spinning their long thin files of brown-backs over the dust-blown lawns into the weave of a vast net lifting the house and the gardens high above the burning skies of the city.”  (Book 1: 1997 September)
The room was almost bare, no jackets or coats in the wardrobes, a row of wire hangers, the spent larvae of the unzipped suit bags, on the shelves the charcoal card pages of the albums empty but for the plastic corners and dark rectangles like ground plans for buildings never constructed.”  (Book 1: 1997 September)
Beside the cupboard the antique cameras with their jack-in-the-box lenses, lilting tripods like drill-rigs, their shadows against the shuttered glare the legs of giant insects, and beyond along the wall old flaps and drops, the fading facade of a rococo palace, a willow-sheltered pond under a silver moon, a balustrade before a distant view of snow-turbanned mountains.”  (Book 1: 1997 September)
It is the flat of someone who spends little time at home, curdled milk and mould-scabbed yoghurt in the fridge, on the sideboard glass vases filled with pond-grey water and still-wrapped sprays of dead roses, the sitting room given over to a ripped ironing-board and over the chaise-longue and armchairs tin-foil take-away containers used as ashtrays, the radiators hung with shrivelled jeans and T-shirts; the windows unwashed, the only view the dark and narrow street which rarely saw the sun.” (Book Two; 1993 - 1997; I)

Breathtaking. This is poetry in prose. I had been wondering where the Kerouacs and Burroughs of today are and I think I have found one of them.

Other great lines:
  • When he smiled it always came as an afterthought, his face creasing uneasily, like a dry scroll.” (Book One; 1982. 1981;II)
  • I knew I would go to long and foolish things to witness that face with int into pleasure.” (Book One; 1982. 1981;II)
  • The dumb-show of a youthfulness which he had never truly owned, and could only mime now, from the outside.” (Book One; 1982. 1981;II)
  • An Englishness petrified and distilled by long expatriation, and extinct to England like a grafted grape which thrives in foreign climes long after the original vines have been destroyed by pestilence.” (Book One; 1982. 1981;II)
  • How would I have discovered so much if I had always found my way home?” (Book One; 1983,  1984;II)
  • You disavowed all tenderness, but always in your eyes the lights of a lonely house; when it was over only a fraternal clasp, like friends after a wrestle.” (Book One; 1983,  1984;II)
  • His face is oyster-grey, shadowed by bad nights, and he brings the food to the table with an overdetermined care, as if walking beside a chasm, his bowed gait warped by some unspoken shame.” (Book One; 1985 - 1989; III)
I need another go to understand it but what I have read is wonderful. March 2019; 177 pages

Also written by Hanania
Homesick: his first novel, based on his prep school experiences. There are still moments of descriptive bliss but it is much easier to understand. I can understand (and I approve of) his transition from this part-memoir part-allegory into Eros Island.
Unreal City (written in between the other two) which I MUST tackle next.







2 comments:

  1. Hanania lived a troubled but extraordinary life. He needs a biographer worthy of him.

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    Replies
    1. Perhaps his books are the best biography

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