I got home from my last trip to Jerusalem at the end of October 2019, and immediately self-isolated – this is long before the pandemic – to get the manuscript for my new book Nine Quarters of Jerusalem written and polished. All winter I wrote. I missed seeing friends, I neglected answering emails, I put in hours at my desk, knowing that when the book was finished, in March or early April, I’d be able to emerge and see friends again and pick up the threads of normal life – and maybe even answer the emails.
Huh. Just as I was writing the 100,000th word (or so) – I think the last thing I wrote was “God”, though you’ll have to wait for the book to see where and why – lockdown happened. So much for seeing friends. So much for normal life.
Every day I’m grateful I and my family have remained healthy.
COVID has hit the publishing industry hard, too, and for the last five months my publisher has delayed work on the Jerusalem manuscript. I hope the book will see the light of day, but I don’t know when that might be.
So in the meantime, I made my own book. It’s a selection of some of the previously published journalism I’ve done from the Middle East over the last few years – some travel writing, some cultural features, some political context pieces. In the end I chose 27 articles, from 13 countries. There’s more information here. As an experiment, I’ve self-published it with Amazon; that’s not ideal, for all sorts of ethical reasons, I know, but there it is. I might be able to publish it elsewhere in time, too.
I wondered what to call it. Then I thought of this blog, which I’ve been adding to, piecemeal, since 2009. I called the blog ‘Quite Alone’, from a 1937 quote by Freya Stark:
To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure. You have no idea of what is in store for you, but you will, if you are wise and know the art of travel, let yourself go on the stream of the unknown and accept whatever comes in the spirit in which the gods may offer it.
That rather lovely quote has rung in my head for years. So I called the book Quite Alone too.
I hope you like it.
Links to buy: