** spoiler alert **
I find these days I tend to read more male writers than female and one of my new favourite male writers is John Berger. In Crossing Paths he not only chose the same title as myself for a book but he has written in a way that suggests he really is a kindred spirit and that similar themes are important to him too.
In Crossing Paths the protagonist John is travelling to some very fascinating places and meeting with the dead -with the people that have influenced him the most. Early in the novel John asks his dead mother: “So time doesn’t count and place does?” I felt a prickle at the back of my neck reading those words. Why can’t the dead live anywhere they chose? His dead mother has chosen Lisboa because of the trams. “There aren’t many cities left with trams, are there?” she asks him.
There is a chapter on Borges and Geneva and a wonderful chapter on Krakow and Ken, an older man who taught the young John a lot about life and how to live. John remembers Ken standing on the edge of a cliff making a sketch of the sea, near Brighton the summer of 1939. In London the protagonist remembers a woman he made love to and how they would look out the window at the trees in Coram’s Fields.
In the village of Gorecko near the Ukranian border John meditates on his new friends, a wedding and a child. In his writing I am there in Gorecko, marvelling at a completely different way of life; I’m standing on the Aguas Livres acqueduct in the Alcantara valley and I’m in a London long gone. This book, touching on lives and places is much more enjoyable than any travel book I have read and in a strange way more informative.