“Going back to a book is like returning to the cities we believe to be our own, but which, in reality, we’ve forgotten and been forgotten by. In a city – in a book – we vainly revisit passages, looking for nostalgias that no longer belong to us. Impossible to return to a place and find it as you left it – impossible to discover in a book exactly what you first read between its lines. We find, at best, fragments of objects among the debris, in comprehensible marginal notes that we have to decipher to make our own again.”
‘Return Ticket’, Valeria Luiselli
The more places I go, the more I want to go back to particular places, places that were somehow more significant. I want to get to know them better. To experience that beautiful flood of recognition, noticing which details are the same, which have changed.
I get sad when I realize that these are places I can no longer call my own with any good authority. I’ll read travel blogs about said places and think, I don’t know that restaurant, or that bar. Was it not there yet, or did I just miss it?
Shanghai is full of impossible déjà vu, corners where I’m convinced I’ve been before even though logically it’s unlikely… Until I take a few more steps and realized I have been there before. Cities in China are like that. They are so new that you can easily mistake one corner for another, or mistake reality for déjà vu. How many more visits before these small corners of Shanghai become another place I will forget and be forgotten by?
(I’ve definitely written about this Luiselli quote before, but I don’t care, I’m doing it again.)