Just a brief post from an internet café in Oaxaca, in Southwest Mexico, but about something else entirely.
Reading historical fiction for my PhD, I´ve been fascinated by how, for many writers, fiction is fundamentally about time and therefore memory, at the deepest level if not always on the surface. When I realised I was going to have finished The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime before we actually took off from Heathrow, I dived into Borders. One of the books I bought was LeCarré´s A Small Town in Germany. I read it all the way across the Atlantic. It has an extra resonance, because it´s all set in the diplomatic community in Cold War Bonn and Bad Godesberg, where my parents were posted before I was born. So I know the background, but at second hand, through their memories, which in a way is not unlike the way you know a place you´re reading about: it´s brought alive for you by being filtered through another sensibility. And then the plane landed in New Jersey, and as I waited in the first of about ten queues which stood between me and the plane to Mexico City, I looked casually over my shoulder and saw the Empire State Building, and the whole flank of Manhattan. Now, the Empire State Building I do know myself, sort of: my earliest memories are of our posting to New York. We left when I was six, and I´ve only been back once, for a few weeks as a teenager. And, of course, we all have a Manhattan of the mind, as it were, from films and TV and books, in a way that I don´t think we have a Bad Godesberg of the mind. But LeCarré´s novel takes place in a mythical 1968, which I remember in New York, with a background of the UK trying to enter the Common Market, as it then was; I remember my father coming home one day in the early 70´s and saying we were in. Suddenly, like walking through a covered market, past all the different stalls of flowers and fish and leather goods and pet food and fudge, the air seemed to smell of all those times - my own, and other people´s - at once.
Too many hours later we took off again, for somewhere I really don´t know. But for those hours I existed in so many layers of time that I do, or don´t, own, that it wasn´t just jetlag of hours I felt, it was jetlag of eras.