Thursday, December 20, 2007

South Seas memories

Here is a wonderful example of the magic door. This brief description was written a century ago, by a Pole who did not become fluent in English (his third language) till he was twenty-one, about his memories as a seafarer in the South Seas. All those potential barriers, and yet, reading the words, we are wafted back in time and place and stand with him experiencing what he felt.

A strange name wakes up memories; the printed words scent the smoky atmosphere of today faintly, with the subtle and penetrating perfume as of land breezes breathing through the starlight of bygone nights; a signal fire gleams like a jewel on the high brow of a somber cliff; great trees, the advanced sentries of immense forests, stand watchful and still over sleeping stretches of open water; a line of white surf thunders on an empty beach, the shallow water foams on the reefs; and green islets scattered through the calm of noonday lie upon the level of a polished sea, like a handful of emeralds on a buckler of steel.

Joseph Conrad, Karain: A Memory

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