Illustration by arch. Matteo Pericoli
The view from my window is my jungle.
A green darkness of tree ferns, calla lilies, luxuriant basil, the great cutout silhouette leaves of what is known as a “delicious monster” plant, all overgrown their tubs. Four frangipani trees, with delicate gray limbs with leaves and discreet sprays of flowers just now at their height, are an open screen on the jungle.
My desk is away to the left of the window. At it, I face a blank wall. For the hours I’m at work I’m physically in my home in Johannesburg. But in a combination of awareness and senses that every fiction writer knows, I am in whatever elsewhere the story is in. Two very different circumstances among my friends Mongane Wally Serote and Amos Oz come to mind as examples. Mongane Wally wrote poetry in solitary confinement in a prison cell during apartheid, work with a view far from prison walls; Amos Oz writes his illuminating novels of Israel within Middle East politics, history and psychological states from a sort of cellar in his house.
I don’t believe a fiction writer needs a room with a view. His or her view: the milieu, the atmosphere, the weather of the individuals the writer is bringing to life. What they experience around them, what they are seeing, is what the writer is experiencing, seeing, living.
We don’t need a view; we are totally engaged in those views created by and surrounding the people we are getting to know.
Nadine Gordimer, the author, most recently, of the essay collection “Telling Times,” won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. Matteo Pericoli, an artist, is the author of “The City Out My Window: 63 Views on New York.”