Finding the book again reminded me of the sheer joy of curiosity, adventure and discoveryby Peter Florence / May 9, 2019 / Leave a comment
Sansibar, oder der letzte Grund by Alfred Andersch
In the fourth bookstack upstairs at Richard Booth’s Bookshop in Hay, I’m sitting up against the European Travel shelving listening to a string quartet playing in the well of the building.
It’s an impeccably ordered shop, so it’s with some surprise that I see the spine of a novel I haven’t heard of for 40 years wrongly shelved in the Africa section. Alfred Andersch wrote Sansibar, oder der letzte Grund in the 1950s. It translates, literally, as “Zanzibar, or the last reason.”
A cast of characters—a communist activist, a young Jewish mother, a whisky priest—all have good reasons to flee Nazi persecution from a Hanseatic port in the late 1930s and they come together to rescue a statue of a reading monk that has been condemned by Goebbels.
One such reason to leave is the romantic dream of a boy who wants to adventure to the spice-paradise of his reading: Zanzibar. Finding the book again reminded me of the sheer joy of curiosity, adventure and discovery. After difficult experiences with festivals we’d started in Budapest and Nairobi and Dhaka, we’d clipped our wings a little. Time to fly again.
Peter Florence is director and co-founder of the Hay Festival
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