Importance of a ping-pong table

Read this summer in London and on the beach:


At the beginning of every summer, more or less round the month of July, correspondents and critics of newspapers and popular magazines always give personal lists of their favorite books. ‘These are the books I advise you to read.’ I love those lists. So that’s why I give you my personal list of favourites now, even though it is late August, at the end of my holiday. This is what I read during this summer time, books – novels and non-fiction – which I found really worthwile reading:

1. London, the biography (2000), by Peter Ackroyd;

2. Freedom (2010), by Jonathan Franzen;

3. The Sleepwalkers (2012), by Christopher Clark;

4. Soumission (2014), by Michel Houellebecq;

5. NW (2012), by Zadie Smith.

The first book is about London, the city perceived by Ackroyd as body. Great. The second describes Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota, but it also gives a great portrait of the dullness of Washington DC. Not to be missed. The third is about Belgrade, Serbia, on the eve of WWI. Horrible history. The fourth concerns Paris. Awesome. And NW, by the British novelist Zadie Smith, describes Willesden, North-West London. Willesden I visited mid July, when I went to London. I walked through the sleepy street where Leah lived. Leah, “a state-school wild card, with no Latin, no Greek, no Maths, no foreign language (…)”, living amongst Nigerians, Sikhs, lots of immigrant people in the neighborhood near Willesden Junction. “In Willesden people go barefoot, the streets turn European, there is a mania for eating outside.” I even visited Number 37 Ridley Avenue, Finchley Road, Willesden lane. So this is London too. The non-touristic, non-billionair immigrant city. Enjoy the language: “Elsewhere in London, offices are open/floor-to-ceiling glass/sites of synergy/gleaming. There persists a belief in the importance of a ping-pong table. Here there is no. Here offices are boxy cramped Victorian damp.” (…) “Face east and dream of Regent’s Park, of St. John’s Wood. The Arabs, the Israelis, the Russians, the Americans: here united by the furnished penthouse, the private clinic.” Yes, a boring place, but a true emancipation milieu. Read this great novel if you want to understand how citites like London and Paris function these days.





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