Monday, May 27, 2013

from The Cat's Table

The protagonist, an 11 year old boy traveling on a ship from Sri Lanka to England, remembers a fellow passenger who is a teacher.

"I bought Cassius and Ramadhin to meet him. He had become curious about them, and he had made me tell him of our adventures on the ship. He beguiled them as well, especially Ramadhin. Mr. Fonseka seemed to draw forth an assurance or a calming quality from the books he read. He'd gaze into an unimaginable distance (one could almost see the dates flying off the calendar) and quote lines written in stone or papyrus. I suppose he remembered these things to clarify his own opinion, like a man buttoning up his own sweater to give warmth just to himself. Mr. Fonseka would not be a wealthy man. And it would be a spare life he would be certain to lead as a schoolteacher in some urban location. But he had a serenity that came with the choice of the life he wanted to live. And this serenity and certainty I have seen only among those who have the armor of books close by."

- Michael Ondaatje, The Cat's Table 


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