Deep North & Haiku

Today I’ll write of a book that hangs in my mind: Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Not a new book but I found it an astonishment. Fully worthy of its Brooker Prize.

First reason: Flanagan quotes Basho’s genius haiku –

Even in Kyoto

when I hear the cuckoo

I long for Kyoto – A meaning I get: Never enough. Never enough.

A second reason: Deep insight into our lives: “Perhaps that was what hell was, Dorrigo concluded, an eternal repetition of the same failure,” Page 289. No Exit by another name.

My third reason is harder to articulate – it’s partly the juxtaposition of terrible war-prisoner conditions (I had to read lightly over some of this; it was just too awful) and Flanagan’s moving and lyrical descriptions of a man’s love for a woman. I was blown away that he could get it so right.

And for today, another haiku:

We wander

The roof of hell,

Choosing blossoms.

            Issa, quoted in Jane Hirshfield, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World.

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