The Book That Changed Your Life: Renee Sarojini Saklikar

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      The Word Vancouver festival is set for its 2016 edition with a massively inclusive lineup of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 21 to 25.

      We asked a group of these much-admired writers to tell us about their finest reading experiences. Which books put a stamp on their imaginations early on? Which ones revealed to them the full powers of the written word?

      Here’s what Surrey poet laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar told us. She’s perhaps best-known as the author of 2013’s children of air india. Saklikar will read from her work at 4:20 p.m. on September 25, on the fest’s Underground stage at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      Slave of the Huns by the Hungarian writer Géza Gárdonyi, first published in 1901, brought out in English by Corvina Press in the late ’60s: the book as mysterious object, to hold, to divine. A red cover, with ink drawings by Victor C. Ambrus, the novel sat on a shelf in my father’s library up at the manse in the town of towns.

      One afternoon, abandoned by Time, I ran a finger along the spines of objects, and the thing called to me, and I took hold of it, sinking down into an overstuffed chintz-covered chair. At the place of the yellow-ribbon marker, I met the freed slave, Zeta, in love and hopeless, with a girl, Emmo, attendant to Attila, king of the Huns. So great is the passion of Zeta the Greek, for Emmo the Hun noblewoman, Zeta indentures his freed self just to be close to her: he enters that long sentence, the Court of the Un-Requited.

      Years would leave me from that afternoon, and yet there was the coming-back: to touch the made thing, red outer-cover split, pages a sweet-acrid scent, to rub that faded yellow ribbon—Zeta, I’m still with you, still enthralled by objects. 

      Renee Sarojini Saklikar.
      A Tsabari