Friday, 13 August 2021

Running in the Family, Michael Ondaatje

Yesterday fell out of the continuum. I ate only pap and lay down a lot, dozing or reading Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje. 

When your family is running in the lushness — societal and botanical — of early-mid-twentieth Ceylon, there's lots to tell, lots to recover, all the drama, the drinking, the heat, the large snakes shortcutting through the house, lots to inherit, lots to clarify, to seek out and confirm, lots to run with. 

Lots to run from. 'There's nowhere worse than home' (Bruce Gould).

Michael Ondaatje left Ceylon when he was eleven. Jean Rhys left Dominica when she was sixteen. Running in the Family is not Wide Sargasso Sea. It's a question of degree. Jean Rhys had five more years than Michael Ondaatje; and a wilder more rotten family, or the rot was closer to the surface. She had to act for a living, and drink and walk the streets in expectation of nothing and everything. Michael Ondaatje's father drank, by the caseload, buried under the lawn.  He was Tamil, the mother was Dutch, in the Ceylonese uppercrust way of miscegenate or drop. Drop anyway. Scatter. To the highlands in the hot season. And eventually leave, for England, for Canada. 

I understand that people want to make clear what isn't, what wasn't, what remains, of the family. But I have more sympathy with those who want to obfuscate, to veil and veil again, till what you can see of family is the hand, the fingers, the hardwired knuckle, in front of you. 

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