I have envied those who seem at home in the movement of their bodies. Who walk into rooms and their minds and bodies are equally present, and they know unconsciously that they are powerful in their fullness.
After reading The English Patient I feel that same sense of slight envy turned suddenly to genuine hunger for more of Ondaatje’s rich and unconscious presence. Because there is a sinking that follows in watching Ondaatje move about a room—whether it is Italy or Naples, the desert of Libya or the gardens of a lover’s body. A sinking which is more akin to what I imagine melting might be like than falling into a river. In river-sinking there is too much flailing. And still, at the bottom of the river, I am discrete from it.
But sinking into prose like Ondaatje’s is transcendental, because I am suddenly not merely watching that powerful figure of story as it moves quietly through time but am part of it. Nor am I jostled out of it until the prose stops. And it doesn’t bring attention to itself, even in stopping. These are the best stories, I feel, that come in and go out and leave the mark of their presence in my mind like a bold streak of silent light.
And if I missed them when they walked in, I can always tell when they go because these fully present people leave their absence behind.