Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Desert Island Book?

A curious thing happened on Desert Island Discs the other day. The guest was Baroness Haleh Afshar - I must confess I hadn't heard of her, but, as a Muslim feminist and enemy of the Iranian Ayatollahs' thugocracy, she had an interesting tale to tell. Come the end of the programme, she was invited to choose a book to take with her to the notional desert island, in addition to the Bible and Shakespeare that are, quite rightly, provided. When she opted for the Koran, she was told she couldn't have two religious texts. This seems harsh, even misguided, and I hadn't noticed this rule being applied before. You'd have thought in these multicultural, pluralist times, the BBC would be keen to encourage variety in this field - but apparently not...
I've really no idea which book I'd take myself (choosing those eight records is hard enough). It seems like an impossible choice. Has anyone out there got a Desert Island Book lined up for when the call comes? Remember - religious texts are not allowed. I don't make the rules...


  1. I'm sure a man chose the Koran recently because he wanted to learn about Islam - can't remember who it was but it was only a few weeks ago.

    I think you've got to go for a really vast compendium. At university we had to invest in the Norton Anthology of English Literarature, which is two volumes of exceptionally densely-packed masterpieces. Still got it and refer to it often. Otherwise, the complete Aubrey-Maturin cycle would be a comfort on the lonely evenings.

  2. You could do worse than pick a huge encyclopaedia. If nothing else it would be good for killing things (how typical - put me on a desert island and all I think about is the demise of something)

  3. Ah well, maybe the Plomley Estate have the format locked up tight. The Bible isn't exactly a barrel of laughs and nor are the Koran or the Sutras. And if fish tell jokes they're not saying, so something comic might be an idea in the absence of anything but the surrounding sea.

    So I think I'd go for the works of P.G. Wodehouse or possibly every edition of Playboy. Playboy must have printed a vast range of stuff over the years and it might be consoling (or it might be masochistic) to be reminded of what one's missing by way of soft and delectable entertainments while marooned among the palm trees.

  4. Dante, though i daresay he may count as religious. i took Finnegans Wake with me to Italy on a 3-month work placement once, with the idea that i could read and re-read it without getting bored, as i would have with a conventional novel. i got halfway through it and gave up, it was torture. The other books were Lord Jim, which i read in about 2 days, and Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, which i read in about one sitting. i then borrowed Houllebecq's Atomised from a friend and read it in one sitting, likewise with The Great Gatsby.

    However, i also took Inferno and was able to read and re-read it without boredom.

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  6. Make Way for Lucia by E.F. Benson would probably be my choice.