How can I review An Equal Music by Vikram Seth? I can’t use words like ‘lovely’. I can’t pin it down, it is “a lark ascending”, dropping a silver chain from an outer realm to earth. It left me not with a song in my heart but with stillness beyond silence. I believe that joy is seeking out, absorbing and reflecting on beauty. This is the joy experienced in reading An Equal Music.
While living between these pages, thoughts revolved around each life being a piece of music. Certain threads run golden and true throughout. Some relationships or moments, embraced in a single note. There are low keys and those which soar. The language of music shaped in pauses. There is art in life, synchronism, our time here bound by invisible threads.
I opened the pages of An Equal Music in a primary school hall, during lulls while I acted as a party agent monitoring voter registration. I wrote this poem.
In a school hall
the abode of innocence
languid fans turn
dream a motherland
fitting utopian vision
is THE way
an opposing fellow
clock hands turn
something, almost imperceptible
a new dust mote
in a shaft
of African sun
Immediately after writing this, I read the following at the start of An Equal Music
“And into that gate they shall enter, and in that house they shall dwell, where there shall be no cloud nor sun, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light, no noise nor silence, but one equal music, no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession, no foes nor friends but one equal communion and identity, no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity.”
-Sermon, John Donne, 1572-1631
I gasped aloud, what poetry, when reality rhymes. At a midway point I recognised a thread between the book which I read previously Not That Kind of Girl by Catherine Alliott and An Equal Music. Vastly different works yet they share a harmony, adding resonance to my life score.
It took so long to forgive Vikram Seth for the sadness of A Suitable Boy. So long An Equal Music waited on my bookshelf. I shall make amends. Despite the call of unread books, I shall return to this one, it is more than a story, it is more than words.