Apr 17, 2010
*Special to asia!
-A +A

If I told you, Reader, that sometimes when I err down narrow streets, and my glance falls on a flower in perfect bloom, or on a snow-white statue with an arm raised forever toward heaven, and that these sights alone could leave me close to tears for the rest of the day – would you think less of me?

If I told you, Reader, that sometimes I can look into the eyes of another human being and see in them entire worlds that reflect my own, and the feeling is one both of recognition, for having found a kindred soul, and regret, for not knowing what to do next – would you find me strange?

If I told you, Reader, that sometimes the way gets dark, and that I stumble often, and that I need someone to help me see my own heart and the hearts of others – Reader, would you hold my hand?



April 15, 2010

'I do not seek,’ said Picasso. ‘I find.’

The arrogant prick. I, on the other hand, do nothing but hunt. I spend my life looking for, searching, poking my head around corners, chasing after the backs of buses, turning over stones, straining my ear at seashells. During the times in my life when I had nothing left to ask for, I started seeking after something to seek.

What am I looking for? I wish I knew. A wish, perhaps. A gentle cloud. The hand of a god. A part of myself that I left behind, long ago. For it seems to me that half of me is here, and the other half is somewhere else, wandering, seeking, gliding, waiting for grace to descend, or for me to inhabit a dream.



April 15, 2010

The other day I bit into a pain au chocolat so sublime, I felt that there was nothing left to live for. It’s flakiness, crumbliness, butteriness and chocolatiness dissolved in the mouth so as to make you never want anything else, ever again. I have been going back to the bakery ever since, even though it takes a half-hour bus ride.

Quite simply, if writing is to compensate for a lack in one’s life, then if authors ate pain au chocolat every day, there would be no Literature left. If I keep up my bus trips, I may never write again.

Which also makes you think – of Proust, of A la recherche, of the pages and pages and volumes and volumes he wrote in search of lost time. Those madeleines couldn’t have been very good.



April 12, 2010

Sunday, and many shops in Paris are closed. But the church, the church is open. From within the whale-boned confines of the Abbey of St Germain des Pres, I can hear the chanting of priests.

I poke my head in through the gothic entrance. Then slide onto a wooden chair right at the back, nearest the door. Adjusting to the merovingian gloom, my eyes catch the vision of hundreds of silent worshippers and, at the other end, men in robes lit by sun sifted through stained glass.

I decide, at this moment, that I need something from my handbag. I don’t know why, but I must reach into it and check if everything – my purse, my phone, my books, my map of Paris – is in there. But the zip of my bag won’t give; it’s stuck. I tug and tug. And tug, until all the contents spring out, clattering onto the stone floor like beads from a snapped rosary.



April 10, 2010

Paris, last night I dived into your river.

The current of your canals dragged me, bridge under bridge under bridge, until I rammed into the silt of your fetid bed. Your waters stank of the grave, your catacombs of the long forgotten. At the bottom of the river, I met a man – decaying, rank, foul, he was begging for release. I said I could not give it to him.

When dawn arrived, the cafés stretched their awnings and the ferries plied their trade – prostitutes, every one. I could no longer hear your cry through the muffled air.


clarissa tanClarissa is a journalist who focuses on travel and the arts. As a desperately hopeful author, she writes short stories and is working on a novel. Clarissa won the Spectator’s final Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing.

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