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29th January

Where is the horizon now?

When the Dutch journalist Ingrid Harms interviewed me after my first novel, Blood Relations, came out in 1995 she titled the piece “The horizon comes into view”.

In the article I talked about how when I found out I had HIV at the age of thirty-three I was suddenly confronted with the fact that I might only have a short time left to live.


The idea that my life could be over in one or two years was upsetting. It also made planning nearly impossible, just when I felt an overwhelming need to use the little time I might have left to write a novel, which was the legacy I longed to leave behind.


But the idea that this book would be my one and only chance to justify my existence was paralysing. Each time I tried to work on it my mind would go completely blank, just like when I sat for my high school entrance exam. I decided to take another approach: I would pretend there was no horizon. I would not think in terms of time frames but only about the things I still wanted to do, spend time with my loved ones, see the world and write.


After all these years I have internalised the idea that there is no horizon. I feel like I'm just getting started, which is a fresh and invigorating sensation, albeit completely detached from reality.


When I talked with a close friend about the dilemma between the many things I want to do and my desire for tranquillity and more time with Felipe, she told me to only do what I really like to do. But I like everything I do! I thoroughly enjoy travelling all over the world to choose candidates for our grants, attend openings, and be with our artists. I also cherish the hours I spend writing. And I love being with Felipe. My hunger to do all these things gets in the way of seeing the horizon.


Will I only slacken a bit when the horizon is right there in front of me, so close that I can almost touch it? Can I only take it easy when I know that I have limited time left for an easy life?


Perhaps it’s not at all about the horizon being close or far away but about the demands I make on myself. And perhaps it also has to do with my voracious appetite for life and for newness. Maybe getting older means that I will have to become even stricter about the choices I make. Taking smaller bites of life, so to speak.


That sounds like I’m putting myself on a diet, a very unappetizing thought. But, as diets go, it’s surely for my own good.

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