There was a small enclosed space at the centre of his being

Word count: 316 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

A great way to improve your writing skill is to emulate the work of others. That’s why, every week, I present a sentence that I’d happily imitate, this one from the book Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie.

I received the book Joseph Anton for Christmas and finished it on New Year’s day. An autobiography of Salman Rushdie’s 13 years in hiding from an Islamic death threat, the book is written in the third person and carries the code name that the British “protection” staff had used to help hide him. Rushdie selected the alias  himself — the Joseph coming from Joseph Conrad and the Anton from Anton Chekov.

I wish I could recommend the book, but mostly, I can’t. At 633 pages it told me far more than I wanted to know about his marriages (four), his celebrated friends (Harold Pinter, Ian McEwan and Martin Amis) and his reflections on his own writing (invariably positive.) Although I agree with his position that there is never any excuse for a death threat, I found his arrogance about his own importance mind-numbing.

He’s a smart, well-educated man, however, and he has some captivating thoughts. Here is one sentence I liked especially:

All his life he had known that there was a small enclosed space at the centre of his being that nobody else could enter, and that all his work and best thoughts flowed from that secret place in a way he did not fully understand. 

This explains, I think, the place from which we all write. It is small and enclosed and allows no visitors. It is secretive and we don’t understand it very well. Some might call it the “right brain.” Others might call it the soul. Still others might name it the id.

I don’t think it matters what we call it. As long as we acknowledge its power.

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