A Visit to the Biswas House Part 1

Keith Jardim

I love all wastegoogletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1530739344582-8’); });

And solitary places; where we taste

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The pleasure of believing what we see

Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be.

– Shelley

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The Professor called. “I have a favour to ask. I regret to say it does not involve financial reward, red wine, women, or first editions signed by deceased authors.”

He spoke, as usual, with the careful but relaxed diction of a man long used to the power of language to make and break reputations, cause wars, love, and peace. Camus had said: An intellectual is a mind that watches itself. This was the Professor.

“Not a reading?” I said, fearing yet another gathering of misunderstandings and offish questions. My new landlord was at a desk in front of me printing a lease, which would enclose me in safety and quiet, as I fled airforces of mosquitoes and insomniac, television-obsessed, Gothick neighbours.

Soon I would reign triumphant: I was moving again. I am utterly Portuguese, my grandfather once said.

“Absolutely not. I am in the east today, as is my wont, and you, despite your busy morning in Maraval, I’m hoping are free early this afternoon to show a couple Naipaul scholars the Naipaul House. A man and woman.”googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1530739344582-6’); });

I was starting to imagine the Professor smiling as he said this.

“Where are they from?” I asked, skimming section e of the lease in silent delight: “… musical instruments of any kind shall not be played nor used, or any singing be practised in any apartment or any party or reception be held in the apartment so as to cause annoyance to the owners, lessees and occupiers of the other…”

“New York.”

“Naipaul fans from New York? Sounds odd.”

The landlord gave me a pen and I signed. He wrote a short list, carefully focused on the task. Then he stood and walked gingerly to a chest-high iron drawer. He was bent and thin.googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1530739344582-5′); });

I felt I should get off the phone. There was much to do.

“I believe you’ll find them interesting. They sound quite enthusiastic, and begged me to show them the house. They leave tomorrow morning.”

“You met them?”

A brief pause: he did not like my habit of questioning unnecessarily. If he’d met them, he would’ve told me.

“They don’t even know who I am. At least, so it seems.”googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1530739344582-4′); });

He was smiling; I could feel it. His voice had a wisp of levity now.

“Unusual.”

“And I am in the east… Can you really meet them? I dare not venture forth from here. The weather is unpredictable and I am reading Conrad.”

“Yes, yes, of course I’ll meet them. I’ll be done by 2 pm or before. What Conrad you reading?”

“Victory. I’ll give the man your number.”googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1530739344582-3’); });

My new landlord was waiting on me.

Keith Jardim is the author of Near Open Water: Stories. He will resume teaching fiction workshops at the Naipaul House in September.

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Source: Newsday https://newsday.co.tt/2018/07/22/a-visit-to-the-biswas-house/

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