Thursday, 29 October 2009

Tea on the Blue Sofa: Whispers of Love and Longing from Africa

by Natasha Illum Berg

Last week, I borrowed two books from the library: Loving Sabotage by Amélie Nothomb and Tea on the Blue Sofa by Natasha Illum Berg. I did not know either author and chose the books solely because I liked the titles. Both novels are autobiographical and told from first person. Both, naturally, deal with love. And, by a strange coincidence, both are 136 pages long. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Tea on the Blue Sofa is not as much a novel as a long letter, or series of letters, from Anoushka (the alter ego of Natasha Illum Berg) to her murdered lover. Her grief is intense and real, and I am sure that she had no choice but to write. And that is a problem, at least for me: I felt as if I were reading someone else’s letters or diaries. It is far too personal (and how could it be otherwise?) to engage me. I was struggling to finish the book. Still. It may be not a great literary work, but it is a piece of respectable and unusual writing.

Also, I learned a few words in Swahili. For example: “A boma is a kraal.”

Tick, tock, tick, tock and then there are people who think that time is something that makes things grow, or shrink. But time has nothing to do with most things. A thousand years can not undo the split second it can take for a person to become a murderer, the rest of my life can not undo the few months of love that we had. Time is just a spectator like me. It brings nothing and takes nothing. What makes wounds heal is forgetfulness, not time. If your memory is good enough, time heals no pain and doesn’t blur blissful times.

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