“I discovered a world within myself that I had not known was there.”
So MG Vassanji began his reading at the IFOA last Friday night in Toronto. He was talking about his process of discovery while travelling in India and researching his ancestral homeland for his latest book, A Place Within. His words apply to all forms of storytelling: fiction, poetry, non-fiction and everything in-between. I hung on to every word as the reading unfolded, thinking back to my recent reading of Vassanji’s The Assassin’s Song and locating myself in the very places he covered in both books, exotic settings described so beautifully and evocatively that I feel I have been there myself.
Also it was a treat to speak to my mentor, who at one point asked me a question I simply could not process, where it was so patently absurd to think he might be asking ME if I was there to give a reading.
Three times I had him repeat his question, assuming my flawed hearing and the noisy acoustic were getting the better of me, and three times he asked if I was in Toronto to give a reading.
At the IFOA.
Until my daughter, the Non-Resident Non-Teenager, gave me a nudge and I came to my senses, sort of, and blathered on about something. Not sure what, but my Cape Breton-born mother saved the day and carried the conversation, a gift that is her birthright as a Cape Bretoner.
Eventually my feet re-established contact with the ground, and MG Vassanji and I had a lovely and relaxed conversation about writing. I left the IFOA reading thinking happy thoughts about the grace of a true mentor who would put a former student at ease and on an equal footing. That, and about worlds within that await discovery.