Last night something very unique happened to me. I suppose it is not so unique in the sense of it being an astonishing or mysterious event. Nevertheless, it was a first.
I was reading Mohamed Choukri’s autobiographical novel, For Bread Alone. It tells the story of Choukri’s tragic first 17 years of life from fleeing the famine stricken Rif Mountains to Tangier where he goes from living with an abusive father to living as a street dweller. I had already researched a little about his life and association with Paul Bowles (whose The Spider’s House I thoroughly enjoyed) and knew that Choukri went from being illiterate until a very late age only to become one of the most influential writers in the Magreb.
So back to my story. I was alternating between reading chapters, listening to music, and talking on the phone. There I was very relaxed, reading one page after another slowly. Then I turned the page and continued reading towards the bottom. About halfway down, I noticed that the page had come to an end. Thinking that a new chapter was about to begin, I turned the page, but there were none left. I had finished the story without realizing it. There was no anticipation of the story’s end. I suppose that I was expecting to come to the part where Choukri learns to read. But the story just suddenly ended without me realizing it. And that has never happened to me before. I have always been conscious of where I am in a book. You’d think that I would have at least noticed that the thinning of the pages. Not this time.
Now, I am left with the feeling that I want more. I just did an Amazon search for the second part of Choukri’s autobiography called Streetwise. The only review available that I came across said that the English translation was very poor and omitted substantial portions of the original. I have found another edition that appears to have been translated by Paul Bowles (who also translated the first) and have ordered it. Let’s see what happens next.