Friday, September 24, 2010

Forster's Fruit-Bats

It's been marvelous to re-read E. M. Forster's novel, A Passage to India. Some people say we read to experience beauty and also to learn how to live.

After I read this passage about fruit-bats--and other things--I felt I could live more peacefully; but, to be true to Forster, only for a moment, before the peaceful mood changed, yet he beautifully describes a moment of acquiescence.

The promontory was covered with lofty trees, and the fruit-bats were unhooking from the boughs and making kissing sounds as they grazed the surface of the tank; hanging upside down all the day, they had grown thirsty. The signs of the contented Indian evening multiplied; frogs on all sides, cow-dung burning eternally; a flock of belated hornbills overhead, looking like winged skeletons as they flapped across the gloaming. There was death in the air, but not sadness; a compromise had been made between destiny and desire, and even the heart of man acquiesced.

Often I don't acquiesce but give up in exasperation. Tell me, when does your heart acquiesce?

The window is open: sparrow chirp gets in, a warm breeze too, but no sounds as evocative and foreign as fruit-bats kissing. Here it's still day. At twilight the crickets will start. My friend, L., said that crickets don't hear each other except when one loses the beat. They hear that one! Then what? I wonder. Do they get the out-of-beat, off-beat cricket back in rhythm?


  1. Dear Mim, wonderful passage from Forster. Thank you for giving us that beautiful prose. Exasperation is what hurts me: I give up in tears. I will certainly try to remember your fruit-bats "There was death in the air, but not sadness" (Oh to live in that kind of gloaming) "A compromise had been made between destiny and desire, and even the heart of man acquiesced." Sigh. I wonder if I have the gene for acquiescing.

  2. Such poetry in this wonderful passage, Mim. I stand in awe.

    I read Passage to India many years ago in my early twenties. I didn't appreciate it then as I do now.

    This recognition can be my moment of acquiescence.

    Thanks, Mim.

  3. Each word, a brush stroke. Or a note. Thank you, Mim.

  4. Isn't the writing marvelous!

    Be well, all.

  5. I tried to remember this particular passage and then recalled that I read "Passage to India" in Spanish when I was a teenager. I have always been attracted to Forster's descriptive style. Thanks for the mnemonic.

    And the two of us writing about beauty almost in unison! That's what I call cyber-synchronicity.

    Greetings from London.

  6. oh, Mim, something's wrong...I love the description of the landscape and the sounds that fruit bats make...
    and, as usual, am provoked by 'a compromise had been made between destiny and desire, and even the heart of man acquiesced.' Even if I read the book, I doubt that I'd understand..

  7. Thanks for the info.
    It is always great to find new blogs of note
    BTW - Don't forget there are ways where you can get hundreds of subscribers to your blog :)
    Walt Bayliss
    CEO and Founder

  8. Cuban--
    It may be the planets or the moon--who knows. Cyber-synchronicity is pretty good too!

  9. Walterbayliss--few is often better than many.

  10. Mim, I have never read A Passage to India - this extract is delicious... I love the thought of an out of beat cricket!

  11. nmj--sometimes I'm that cricket.

    It's all a-pour here but a different rain than Scotland's, tropical, warm.

    I hope it's not too chilly yet and flinty fall holds off in Edinburgh!