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Reading ‘Maurice’ in Juba

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The book: Maurice, EM Forster

The place: Juba

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I’m pretty sure I haven’t read any EM Forster since reading A Room with a View in high school, and so I was taken aback by quite how good and how brave a book Maurice is. I read Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer last year, which is about Forster and encompasses the writing of Maurice, and of course now I want to reread it in light of what I now know about the book, BUT life is too short and there’s that awful, anxiety-inducing column in one of the Sunday supplements that says that most people only read 3000 books in their lifetime and so if I reread Arctic Summer then that only leaves room for 2999! OH GOD BIBLIOPHILIA IS SO STRESSFUL.

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I write to you from the Tulip Hotel, Juba – arguably Juba’s swankiest hotel, into which I checked for the weekend as they were doing a special cheap deal for Eid, and I just wanted to be somewhere with reliable electricity for a few days. I should have checked out this morning but couldn’t face it, and my decision not to do so was vindicated when I got a text this afternoon informing me that the generator where I normally stay is broken, and so it has gone from having sporadic, feeble power to having no power at all. I will probably check out tomorrow, as I dread to think how much this is costing me (I haven’t asked what their normal price is, following the rock-bottom rates of the weekend), but it’s so niiiiice here.

I’m leaving Juba on Friday, about which I have mixed feelings: it’s been lovely spending more time in South Sudan over the last few months, but it’s not a particularly happy time to be here; while the peace treaty seems more or less to be hanging together, pockets of insecurity are breaking out all over the country, including in places that had hitherto been mostly peaceful – and insecurity in Juba appears to be dramatically increasing, with petty crime and compound invasions and a particularly vile couple of rapes and, just today, some shootings in broad daylight. In 2010 I’d happily stay out until 4am, walk alone on the street at night, and take any form of transport without fear; it’s sad to say that Juba’s not that town any more.

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Written by Jess

September 28, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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