Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Austen to Afghanistan: Suggestions for Stephen Harper

What do you think Stephen Harper has been reading on those long airplane trips he's been taking across the Pacific latelyl? Could it be one of those books that Yann Martel has given him over the last few months?

The most recent, mailed September 3, is The Watsons by Jane Austen. Martel says he chose it "for two reasons: it is short, and it is unfinished. Its shortness will I hope make you want to read some of Austen’s longer novels, Pride and Prejudice or Emma perhaps."

Austen abandoned the book--although, Martel writes, "there is more perfection in it than in many a completed novel"--because of several sad events in her life while she was working on it, including the illness and death of her father. It was only four years later when some of her family responsibilities were lifted that she began to write again.

"She let go and then started up again, able to produce novels that marked the English novel forever. In that, there is something instructive. There is so much we must leave unfinished. How hard it is to let go," Martel concludes.

Hmm, whatever is Martel thinking about? Afghanistan is one possibility. If so, and if Harper really has taken a look at Martel's letters, if not his gift books, there may be some hope for changing Canada's mission to Afghanistan soon.

N.B. We'll be talking about Martel's first gift to Harper, The Death of Ivan Illytch, tonight in French at a causerie littéraire in the Bibliothèque Robert-Bourassa in Outremont, and in English at informal book discussion at the Atwater Library and Computer Centre.

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