1987 By the way…

Old Calendar

Old Calendar.

[Dear Mother,]

By the way: I quoted a piece about biography in my last letter, to the effect that there is always an autobiography lurking. There is a figure that I almost think I’ve dreamed up, but that I know existed, and that I remember stumbling across in grad school days. I’ve thought for some time that I’d like to do a biography of this person because of what I remember him to have been and because I can’t imagine that anyone has done it before. The name itself seems fictitious: Marmaduke Pickthall. I’m not even sure that’s the exact spelling. But my recollection is the following: He was a nineteenth-century English orientalist; he converted to Islam and produced a translation of the Koran, as well as, supposedly, other writings on Middle Eastern topics. That’s it! I can’t summon any other information to mind. But doesn’t anyone with that name deserve a biography? If what I recall is true, it’s hard to believe that he led a boring or humdrum life. Although I’d like to do some snooping in an appropriate library (like UT-Austin), I’ve made no effort to do so thus far. If *your* snoopings turn up any evidence of this man, please let me know. Something else I *have* looked for on one occasion, at the Rice University Library, are the writings in French (or English, for that matter) of the Marquis de Sade. I defy you to find anything available. And yet, for years, I’ve come across remarks that he had a large effect on French literature and on literatures, such as ours, that have been influenced by the French.

[Correspondence, Copyright (c) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.]

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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