I entered the Paradise and I closed the door.
I've just spent three weeks with my husband in Norway. We were curious to see the richest country of the world (according to HDI; other rankings say that the richest country of the world is Qatar, but of course we have sufficient Bedouin wisdom to dismiss such misleading news). In any case, I have no ambition to become neither a Norwegian nor a Qatari. Now I'm back in Leiden, in the Netherlands, the country of my choice, le pays qui me ressemble, which is, if my statistics are correct, only the tenth richest country of the world (or, according to alternative ranking, a country poorer than Saudi Arabia). But I know what I know: the Netherlands are fabulously rich, since I carefully add the value of books and universities, and advanced expertise, and art collections, and luxe and calme and volupté.
My mourning finished; I prepare myself to settle on the top of the planet, i.e. between Leiden and some occasional stays in Oxford. I spend long hours finding home library pictures on Google. I still have a preference for heavy, radically conservative, mahogany bookshelves. But perhaps I'm gradually coming closer to complete acceptance of white walls and anthracite curtains, assorted to the leaden frames of my stained-glass windows. I also meditate on my library as a collection, I try to catalogue it (LibraryThing is much better an app than Libib). A past is gradually removed from my life, and that also implies books - I'm coming to the essentials. Even books I've written myself. Books in Polish. Perhaps only one author will utterly remain: Czesław Miłosz. Right now, between my Arabic reading, I boggle my mind over two Polish books epitomising the very thing to be removed. Both offered to me by their authors: Tadeusz Sławek and Ryszard Nycz, which makes my mind-boggling such a personal affair. But I regret to say that neither of them, Nie bez reszty and Kultura jako czasownik, belongs to the top of the planet. They are to be left behind. As much as all the other, Markowski, Agata... Those people I admired in my youth. Certainly, they constitute the best of the country. Nonetheless, they transpire the very limitation that makes the country's misery, the narrowness of its horizon. And that's what makes them unfitting the crispy air of my Himalayan heights.
I look to the IBL product right in front of me, as if it were yet another exotic book from the pocket of a traveller. I look to the list of names associated with it: Ewa Domańska, Tomasz Majewski... Oh, those people, that fabulous خَصّة to which I never belonged. -- The deepest, the most pervading of satisfactions: I've never been one of them. There has never been equality between me and them, only those anecdotes, memories that make me laugh and that I shall soon forget. They sink into the void together with the country that is no more.
The deepest, the most perverse of satisfactions. They are no more, swept into the void, and here am I, the proud survivor, gathering my stuff to camp on the top of the planet.
Now, having left behind all those years of marginalisation, of being minor, of not participating in those people's local greatness, the remaining task is to accept the crispy air of the heights. To accept that I'm here to stay, me, my toothbrush, my Estee Lauder fluid, my books, my notebooks, my Damascene bookstand, my porcelain cups, my African masks, my farwa (i.e. desert coat), my incense and my perfumes, my Moroccan bag, my colour pens, all my remaining paraphernalia.
I will have to change all such texts as the landing page of my Travel & Literature section, where once I wrote: "Be that as it may, it is all about experiencing the world, being one with it. All the drama of such an endeavour comes from the fact that I am someone who comes from such a marginal, closed space, where books of the world arrive late, if ever. The reading notes and essays that I gather in this section must thus be seen as a self-analysis of an ignorant, fighting to get out of darkness." This is not valid any longer, of course. Now I'm living on the top of the planet, where all books arrive timely and from where all countries are perfectly visible, permanently flooded in a dazzling noon.