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the narrow road to the deep north

20 years ago I read a book called Death of a River Guide which I didn’t enjoy and which I don’t remember, but which has stayed with me ever since. not like a scar or a limp, not like a stain. more like a family photo granted immortalisation-by-framing. I didn’t read any of Flanagan’s other books, that dark Tasmanian feeling is strong enough every time you sit alone in a bus. but now I am reading his latest, because it won awards, and because now dark Tasmanian is rich not sad. there are many things about this gripping book and the first is an echo of Kundera’s definition of kitsch.

They recited to each other more of their favourite haiku, and they were deeply moved not so much by the poetry as by their sensitivity to poetry; not so much by the genius of the poem as by their wisdom in understanding the poem; not in knowing the poem but in knowing the poem demonstrated the higher side of themselves and of the Japanese spirit.

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