It’s a funny thing, reading. I try to get excited about contemporary literature, but there’s not that much out there that really grabs me. There’s Alan Hollinghurst, of course, but Ishiguro’s last offering was such a disappointment I’m not sure I’ll be able to summon the enthusiasm to make an attempt at his next. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall was right up my street, but the descriptions of her earlier books leave me cold. I must steel myself…
Anyway, the point is that for now I’ve resorted to rereading old favourites. At the moment, ‘Ayesha, the Further History of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed’ by Rider Haggard. It’s fabulous. Such a great adventure and some dexterous comments on Tibetan Buddhism that will I’m sure, bring a smile to those of you whose feet “are in the Path” of Buddhadharma. For example, this is how the Abbot of the ‘Lamasery’ described the lives of the lamas who lived there.
“We have acquired much merit, we have been blest with many revelations, and, after the repose we have earned in Devachan, our lots in future existences will be easier. What more can we ask or desire, removed as we are from all the temptations of the world?”
And the narrator of the book adds, “Thus they wore away their blameless lives until at last they died of old age, and, as they believed—and who shall say that they were wrong—the eternal round repeated itself elsewhere.”
Later, Leo, the gold-haired hero obsessed by Ayesha, shares his interpretation of the Abbot’s words.
“A cheerful faith, truly,” said Leo, looking after him, “to dwell through aeons in monotonous misery in order that consciousness may be swallowed up at last in some void and formless abstraction called the “Utter Peace.” I would rather take my share of a bad world and keep my hope of a better. Also, I do not think that he knows anything of Ayesha and her destiny.”
A man of wax, that H. Rider Haggard, or should I say a writer of wax.