we're at the LSE     in fact we're downstairs in the New Academic Building on Lincoln's Inn Fields with its solid architecture, its lists of donors, its heater glowing in the entrance lobby     we're just outside the auditorium being invited to enter the colloquium on migration and literature organised by Clare Mercer     where Abdulrazak Gurnah will be speaking and reading from Paradise or By The Sea     evoking the pain and the nostalgia of exile as it passes into normalcy
Abdulrazak Gurnah recalls, he says, the experience of meeting at such events people from Zanzibar who invariably approach him and whom he has forgotten: unable to recall or interact with these people at the same time as remaining fixated with them: scanning the audience in fact while speaking, with an expression at once eager and, we can say: h unted: anticipating the acute awkwardness of encounters with figures who leap out from the indifferent crowd like broken promises - as he himself might say, in his eloquent, evocative prose, that summons the warm waters of the Indian Ocean the way Virginia Woolf might summon the sound of footsteps under the bare planes in the squares around and above you