16 thoughts on “Mombasa Madrigal And Other African Escapades – Rhys Hughes

  1. A neatly stitched book, of 100 pages, with red fly-leaves, a good feel to the pages, a beautiful separate old-fashionedly crafted, translucent map, and some black and white photographs inside, and a few seemingly well-intentioned geometrical designs….

    MOMBASA MADRIGAL

    —> Page 14

    “Vehicles of all kinds, most emitting thick exhaust fumes, draw tangents and triangles on the geometry of intention.”

    Arrival in Nairobi, conceits on living near the equator, conceits on the nature of cities and their peoples, a photo of the notebook text I am reading written without power, yet strangely powerful, and I am already successfully engaged by this travelogue (and as yet to be inferred love story?), a travelogue become Rhys-Hughesian.

  2. —> Page 18

    “I rarely drink beer, but I did there.”

    The reader not just engaged, but now captivated. As we follow Rhys – and I shall call the protagonist Rhys with, as photographed here, Lucy – into Nairobi, its security, it blade-carrying maidens (note the scythe on the cover of ‘World Muses’ here), the nature of the farm outside Nairobi and of the beer and the people as Lucy’s extended family and melancholic flute playing, the warm (I infer) welcoming of a white stranger (to them) in a strange land, well, it would be a strange land to me.

    I will treat this book as the true gestalt of its spirit, not the subsequent self-published reprint with added material.

  3. —> Page 24

    “Something crazy was always happening to someone.”

    Indeed. Details of stargazing, bedding down, drunken tales of others, thoughts on Tarzan and his more dubious Africa. And a sublime image implanted in my mind of snow on the equator, and perhaps Rhys’s own nemonymous story ‘climbing the tallest tree in the world’ vis à vis the monumentality of Mount Kenya. Good luck with climbing it one day, Rhys.

  4. —> Page 30

    “Music, Literature and Dessert triangles . . .”

    A rhapsody of fruit, too. And the Art of Salad. Eccentricity, too. And Longitude versus Latitude, and making a lazy sundial, so to speak. On the brink of a train journey to Mombasa. I think I may be more entranced by this highly personal travelogue than I should be. It is indeed rather special, and I somehow believe we are all important in keeping it going, even though it has already been written, and printed on the pages beyond where I have already reached. But never take this writer for granted, whoever you are, even if you are Rhys himself. Pascal, notwithstanding.

  5. —> Page 35

    “Why keep a book that has been read in hibernation on a shelf? Give it the chance to flourish in someone else’s mind.”

    I am glad to hear that, and — in accordance with a quote I picked out of a book a number of years ago (“Every book has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” From ‘The Shadow Of The Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafón) — I am now gradually abiding by such a dictum with all my books. And indeed, this will apply to the intrinsically unique spirit of this Raphus Press book once I have finished my journey with it. Meanwhile, Rhys, as if on a ‘slow TV’ train journey, allows us to look through the window at zebras and one giraffe. As well as commenting on the few books he has taken to Kenya. (He should have taken more books, he has discovered.) Until we arrive together with Rhys and Lucy at Mombasa Station…

  6. —> Page 36

    An atmospheric entry into Mombasa by taxi.
    “Chaos slowly is being ironed out of Africa. This is partly due to Chinese investment…” and, coincidentally, earlier this morning, on BBC Radio 4, I had the ‘Belt And Road Initiative’* brought fully to my consciousness for the first time. And on this page, too, I learnt the word “epeirogenesis”!

    *I originally misheard it as Belton Road!

  7. —> Page 42

    “, and I find myself starting to doubt, after years of sending them, if messages in bottles ever reach the people they are intended for.”

    That seems to sum up some constructively endearing and naive gestalt of the Rhys who tells us now of his entry into Mombasa – a name as a counterpart to Dad-Dancing? – or his entry ABOUT Mombasa and its madrigallic ambiance, the circumstances of the famous photo (shown in this book) of himself with the giant elephant tusks, and digressions upon politics, one paragraph on page 39 seeming perfectly to describe the behaviour of Brexit, and digressions upon the invention of writing. And an enduring conceit about messages-in-bottles and their own counterparts of digital by-pass. Digressions, too, as the actual mainstream by-passing delightful capriciousness, but paradoxically helping the latter thrive.

  8. —> Page 50

    “It has been here for a long time, that’s why, it’s a grand old dame now. The city seems to chuckle gently as one passes through the shade of its alleys.”

    And ‘Mombasa’, too, is the name of Rhys’ invented board game that he describes here. As non-competitive as far as possible, its rules seem revolutionary as well as engaging. Could be successful if marketed. Unless someone pinches it when reading this book!
    This book, so far, is also a revolutionary and engaging travelogue that, given the right exposure, would be very successful, I predict. I am more than just simply captivated by it. Lessons in both history and puckish digressive thought. And a sense of genius loci that non-travellers among us would otherwise miss.

  9. —> Page 54

    IN AFRICAN AIRSPACE

    A wonderful ponderation about the equilibrium of balance and relative travel, as the narrator flies in an aeroplane while drinking coffee. Ending with mention of that singular giraffe again. Thus making me think that non-travellers travel, too, not only when reading books such as this one, but also by the gestalt actuality of real-time in one place.

  10. NOTHING WILL HAPPEN

    —> Page 60

    A complete change of gear? Gear can be slang for nifty dress. Virrels’ gear is his pockets and the mind-blown chase through them by strange entities until hired as a butler by presumably one of his social betters, Capt. Dangleglum, to go with him to somewhere exotic like Africa, à la J.M. Barrie’s social comedy ‘Admirable Crichton’. Note that all the paragraphs in this section, so far, look identical in shape and containment, ironically like identical pockets.

    “…and these pockets were all of different sizes.”

  11. Delighted you noticed the paragraphs, Des!
    I always write to be as symmetrical as possible. Paragraphs are never of random lengths 🙂

  12. —> Page 68

    “Your ship is served, sir!”

    The pockets were not gratuitous, as we now know that – in this Nothing Will Happen story’s poetic aspects – Mombasa is a city of pockets. Also it resonates with Rhys-Hughesian fictionatronics of story-telling (see my earlier reviews of his work) even with this story calling some of itself a “cliché” by dint of its having now become a Rhys-Hughesian cliché by further dint of a monumental Rhys-Hughesian tradition!
    In hindsight, also, by its ending, arguably a blank story. If so, the second blank story in world literary history.

  13. SAILING TO PORT MANITOU

    “Such childish delusions!”

    Of saying ‘shells’ in the Seychelles. No, this is more than anything, Rhys’s greatest story yet that I have ever read. And I have read most, if not all, of those published, I am sure. If he wrote this one recently, recently is good, whatever the journey he is taking. It is a perfect apotheosis in every way. A substantive work in five parts, telling the journey of Balthus and Festo in a canoe to the hopeful eponymous destiny, that ungraspable goal all artists have, or have for their characters, I am guessing. There is so much to mention here, I have decided to mention nothing. Only that it is a real landmark for my own personal travelogue into the written work of this author.

    end

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