A Passage to India, by E.M. Forester

Reading A Passage to India has entirely new relevance for me in 2019. I’d read it in high school English, had no idea what it was about, watched the movie and still didn’t know what it was about, but I love Forester, so I’d always meant to come back and take another crack at it as an adult.

It’s still a bit of an enigma to me—if anyone can explain the concluding “Part III: The Temple” section to me, I’d be grateful—although this time around, I felt like I understood most of what Prof. Godbole and Mrs. Moore are saying, and even the experience of the Marabar caves, which on my read has to do with a sort of moral flattening of the universe: the infinite is not grandiose, it’s empty. A bit like how I used to think of death as “nothing for a long time” until I realized it might just be “no time” (although I no longer believe that). Forester also makes a great deal out of the collapse of good and evil in the face of meaninglessness, which I pretty quickly dismiss: whatever “ultimate” meaning there is or isn’t, the fact is that how we treat others in the lived in moment certainly makes a difference to our own and other people’s experience of the world, which is plenty.

Most of what struck me square between the eyes, though, was the Anglo-Indian relations, the cultural and racial tensions. It’s an incredible book to have be written in 1924, and it’s still challenging and thought-provoking, but with new echoes: not just a snapshot of a particular community in time, but a portrait of humanity. If you haven’t read this, or haven’t read this in a while, I highly, highly recommend it.