“It may be that writers in my position, exiles or emigrants or expatriates, are haunted by some sense of loss, some urge to reclaim, to look back, even at the risk of being mutated into pillars of salt. But if we do look back, we must also do so in the knowledge–which gives rise to profound uncertainties–that our physical alienation from India almost inevitably means that we will not be capable of reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost; that we will, in short, create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind.”
— Salman Rushdie
Re-reading “Imaginary Homelands” is like talking to an old friend who understands everything you don’t know how to put into words.
I realized this is why I’ve been writing “The Salt in the Snails.” In my workshop the other day, a colleague repeated a passage where the narrator says:
“Até Louise said she saw me cry. I believed her, at least, I told her I did. But I remembered what I remembered: I didn’t cry when Mother left, I didn’t cry when Denise chopped off my hair, I didn’t cry when Ben disappeared along with his mother. I swam through them like my memories; I walked around them like broken shells.”
As I sit down and revise it, distilling the images, purifying the sentences–implementing the ‘interior decorating’ part, as Patricia Powell calls it–I begin to wander and can’t help but fall in love with how stories are written. I just love how my ‘body’ knew what this story was about, even though my mind is still trying to meander about and find it: it’s about loss, of losing the past, a home, that can’t be reclaimed. How I’m going to work that into the story organically–that’s going to take awhile.