In Which E@L Finds His Lost Despair Only to Gain it Again.

Fuck E@L if the Thai-speaking maids here don't have a Russian literature fetish!

E@L has nine (9) books with him on holiday [OK, he brought only five(5) from Singapore, the other four (4) he purchased here, he couldn't help himself - it's a fucking disease he swears!] so when one of them goes missing, 1/9 of his soul breaks loose, tearing painful streams of agonizing loss out his tender heart. (Remember the rule of 9% for body burns!)

After the maids had been through his room while he was at a quite satisfactory breakfast - he had purchased his own muesli and yoghurt, they supply the fresh fruit, toast (white, alack!), coffee and, this morning, tangerine juice - he came back and found that something was not to be found. A book was not there. He could sense its absence almost straight away, something just wasn't right.

A Penguin Classic, silver trimmed. A low-grained print in an antique hue, showing a steely-gazed 3/4 face, the unsettling face of an unsettled man. He is staring straight ahead with great intent, as if he was looking into a - don't say it - a mirror (you said it!) a reflection of himself in YOUR face! He is YOU as someone else, looking back at himself as YOURSELF! A line of errant hair comes to the bridge of his nose and divides his face in half (oh how clever, how Nabokovian, was the choice of this image!) and the remaining picture into thirds. But all we see remains incomplete. One ear, one eye, a nose, half a mouth - the rest in shadow. What is hidden, what forces lies out of our sight that drive, what is in his, our ---- sub-conscious?

"Despair" is about a man of great refinement and taste, forced to live in exile (expatriatdom?) amongst nincompoops, dolts and people of low taste in books. Oh, good blog reader, imagine how E@L relates! He goes insane when he meets his Dopplegänger... Well you would, wouldn't you?


Imagine E@L's own despair, HIS madness, when he realized that this was the book missing from his holiday room!

Thrice, thus, he circumambulated his villa, clockwise and contra, clockwise again, genuflecting for a view of the dusty and dead insects under the bed, tossed aside cushions and pillows as if they were... lightweight fluffy things. The bathroom, the bedroom, the desk. How many times can he look in the same place until what was not there initially returns? It did not return.

He envisaged the man on the cover staring back at him. He could see the image everywhere, but not the book from whence it came.

Two maids had cleaned his room, taken some clothes for laundering, while he was gone at breakfast. Who else could it be? He had met them as he exited - pretty things, it goes without saying, one with a gold-studded nostril. They took the advantage to clean his room, while he wasn't observing, or snoring on the chaise sonnen, disturbing them from their tasks.

He knew that he had taken an Iris Murdoch with him to town last night, tried to fathom the weird family dynamics in the incredibly unprofitable The Time Of The Angels (13 copies from 1p each, and he was slowly getting his money's worth), so he could not have left his Despair in the Hua Hin Starbucks, oh-so-conveniently adjacant to the Clock Tower taxi pick-up point. (What comfy chairs in Starbucks! Perfect for reading difficult, high-class, tomes. Pity that the coffee is shite. Even the Mocca Frappuccinos fade to insipid pale ice before they're half done with.)

The missing paperback could not have been in his short's pocket - Iris was there last night, and now here she was, by the TV with the other seven books.

No. Despair was stolen, he had not lost it. VN had walked.

The maids were currently at the villa across the way. E@L, doing his best aggreived Sherlock Holmes, called to them, buzzed the entrance buzzer. One of the maids came out, the ala-studded. He asked to see if she could examine his laundry - he was missing a book - he mimicked opening a book's pages with a moth-wing motion of his palms.

Maybe they had picked a book up by mistake with his clothes?

She looked innocent, ignorant, misunderstanding. Laundry? She pulled out his bag and gave it to him - here you check. He padded it down like it belonged to a suspect traveler with sweaty dark-skin, a large nose, a tea-towel on his head, four days growth on his face and a waist-coat of C4. No book. He shrugged. He looked at the maid. He looked for guilt in her eye, saw only gilt in her nose.

She was the soul of innocence, but he knew that she knew that he knew that she took it. She knew too, that he would inform the front desk of his missing property.

E@L walked away and had only gone a few steps when she called out.


He turned to see her holding his book up. Her expression was troubled, but not guilty, certainly not surprised. Ah, it had fallen from the laundry bag, presumably.

It was a fact, that was all, here is the book. Where it wasn't, just a second before.

He feigned pleasure and thanked her for her keen observance in noticing his precious book.

She gave him a Sawadee.


And under her breath she cursed this arrogant rich farang who couldn't spare a small novel, some strange words, what could it matter to him, to help her poor family survive?

E@L wonders how much she would have got at the second-hand book market? 20Bht?

He had walked past the book-stall himself last night. Lots of German and Scandinavian language books. No Nabokov.

Still no Nabokov.


And after writing this, he wishes he hadn't chased it up. He feels like shit. He could have bought a better copy anyway, chased up a first edition on-line or something. It was only a book.

His book.

His Despair.



Posted by: expat@large on Feb 06, 08 | 12:25 pm | Profile


Are you sure you didn't misjudge the maid E@L. A lot of them are big Nabokov fans you know. Perhaps she just wanted to read a few passages to her fellow maids during the lunch break?

Posted by: Dick on Feb 07, 08 | 5:16 am

Well, it is a possibility indeed. The Mouse was a big fan of Saul Bellow - his style is somewhat reminiscent of Nabokov's, sort of a breezy chat with the reader, not as smart-arse and knowingly post-modern as VN though.

Martin Amis, of course a major fan of both of the other writers, she disliked intensely. Interesting. I had no VN in the house at the time, it would have been fun to seek her opinion.

Posted by: expat@large on Feb 07, 08 | 10:51 am

Yes but Mouse was Filipina if I recall which may have given her an advantage. I'm not sure VN's linguistic acrobatics translate well into Thai. Perhaps if the Thai maids in question are reading this they might be prepared to clarify the matter?

Posted by: Dick on Feb 09, 08 | 12:45 am

I wasn't being racially specific Dick.

That's a good call though for maids to call in, not just Thais.

Hello out there in cleaning product land! Careful on that window led... ... ...

Oops. There goes my representative demographic. Lucky I only live on the second floor (storey/level)!

Posted by: expat@large on Feb 09, 08 | 11:50 am


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