‘Love is not a victory march/It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah’ — Leonard Cohen

My partner of some twenty years is a man who many would consider white. He comes from a Northern European country whose inhabitants only recently became ‘white’ according to the culture and science of race, but using the common-sense of racial thinking he looks the way white men look. What does that mean? He has fair skin. He tans in the summer, but usually only after burning and peeling first. When he was a little boy his hair was white blonde and now it is a brown colour with flecks of copper and grey in it. He has a long torso, as Northern Europeans often do, and relatively short legs (his legs are as long as mine, though I am a good eighteen centimetres shorter than him).  He has the kind of body that comes from centuries of living at the northern limits of Europe.

I’ve never had to explain racism to him. I can come home at the end of the day and describe all the micro-aggressions I have encountered without ever having to hear ‘Are you sure you didn’t imagine that?’ or ‘Maybe you just over-reacted’. I’ve never had to explain why I didn’t want to go somewhere because it might be hostile or dangerous for me. I’ve never had to listen to him apologize for his racist friends or family because ‘basically they’re good people’. And none of those things are down to me. I didn’t have to teach him about race or racism because he had already done a lot of thinking about those things before we met. He did not expect me to teach him. He had taught himself and he wanted to be with me, not learn from me or feel good about how tolerant and open-minded he is.

It is difficult to adequately describe how such sheer human recognition of who you are, what your reality is, feels like to a woman of colour raised in the West. It is beyond feeling beautiful or cherished or loved. It is something like feeling free again, except you didn’t actually realize you were imprisoned before that moment.

As I described in Sunday’s post, however, before I met my partner the only discussions I ever had with men were about how fundamentally they could not desire me because of my skin, culture or race. It would be romantic and idealist in the extreme to suppose that one encounter, however sustained it has come to be in my life, would wipe out the effect of all those other encounters, or of all the encounters I’ve had since with all kinds of white men in white spaces. My desires are still colonized, and I find myself drawn to men who, with some part of my mind and body, I know are unable to see me as I am. I do feel that if just one of those men–the men who cannot find women of colour desirable–would nevertheless have to step outside himself towards me, then I would win the racism competition. I would have triumphed over racism with the sheer force of my mind, or my body, or my personality. I know that is absurd, and yet it does shape my desires and encounters with the world. It isn’t borne of love, or even friendly pedagogical desire, but a kind of aggression, towards myself as much as towards the man. Because I have enough self-awareness to know that it is aggression I relate to many men, especially men I find attractive, by containing or effacing myself. I help them in their efforts to erase me, because the alternative would be to insist on myself in a destructive and ultimately self-defeating manner.

Perhaps that is a slightly too stark account of the complicated tangle of desire that arises between white men and women of colour because another reality of those encounters is that I go on finding those men attractive. The young men who told the teenage me that they could never love me were not strangers, they were friends, sometimes good friends, people whose intelligence, creativity, physical grace, and sense of humour, had already made them so attractive to me.

I don’t really know whether it is tragic or romantic that love persists through racism, but the fact that it does is probably because we are all caught up in racialized thinking whether we understand it or not. You can tell yourself that you’re not a racist, you’ve just never dated a woman of colour before; or you just don’t happen to find women of colour attractive (and yeah, that’s a lot of women in the world you can’t imagine as beautiful). You can tell yourself that you’re interested in that man because he’s handsome, he makes you laugh, he makes you think, and you can learn to persistently ignore the fact that he doesn’t seem to have noticed you’re a woman of colour (maybe he doesn’t ‘see’ race). You can tell yourself all sorts of things in order to love and be loved.













Last year I was in the pub with a group of students from a course on contemporary women’s writing and the discussion turned to who they loved or lusted after. After almost all of them had whipped out their smart phones to show me images of musicians and actors I’d never heard of, we began to discuss the attributes that made these men desirable. One quality was almost unanimous: the men had to be taller than them, or if they were tall women themselves then the men had to be at least as tall as them. Whatever else was negotiable, this was not. As one young woman noted, a tall man made her feel both feminine and protected. Although she was the only person to articulate the link exactly this way, others around the table nodded in agreement.

How do you know that what you have learned to desire is not your own oppression? If you are a straight woman, how do you know that this desire for a man taller than you is ‘just’ an aesthetic concern (pretending, for the moment, that there is such a thing as aesthetics-without-politics), and not a long-buried code for reminding yourself that you need male protection in the world, that the world is a dangerous and unmanageable place without a man to defend you.

That example may be too obvious to be immediately persuasive, but it is at work in various ‘purely’ aesthetic considerations. If you have been raised in England there is something unarguably attractive about an upper-class voice. Whether it is a man’s voice, say Hugh Grant or Colin Firth, or a woman’s voice, say Emilia Fox or Keeley Hawes, it has a particular timbre, cadence, and pitch. You can find those sounds pleasing–and they are–but they are pleasing in the context of what they signify. They signify class position, which in turn codes for other capacities such as education, breeding, and an ease about money. Upper-class voices in England tend to be lower-pitched, rhythmically controlled, and not too fast or frenetically paced, suggesting, for example, a life that is lived in large, comfortable country estates rather than urban glamour. The English ear is very carefully attuned to voice, which might also explain why, according to recent studies, British people increasingly use difference voices in different spheres of their lives (for instance, their regional working class accent when they are home with family and friends, but their Londonish middle class accent when they are at work). It is an interesting compromise with the social formation: it doesn’t quite go the whole way in refusing class and national aspirations, but it does recognize that you don’t have to be middle class, you just have to reproduce some of the codes of that class. (This isn’t a new game of class chess in Britain, but people seem to play it more openly nowadays.)

To find a working-class accent, or a short man, attractive, then, requires a kind of learning and it can occur in various ways. Perhaps you’ve grown up among working-class men and their voices feel real and substantial to you in a way other voices don’t; or you’ve really examined your own beliefs about class and don’t feel the thrill of the upper-classes anymore because it embodies the unearned privilege of the bourgeoisie. (If you think that second instance is far-fetched, read Orwell’s meditations on how he learned to unthink the embodiment of his class habits.) One thing I know from teaching literature is that you can learn to love and appreciate aesthetic forms that are new and unfamiliar to you once you understand how they work. Once you work out what stream-of-consciousness is doing, or why postmodern narrative fragments time and place, you can take real pleasure in immersing yourself in texts composed using those techniques. Human beings really aren’t different, in this sense, from any other form you take pleasure in knowing.

When my family arrived in Canada, the landscape of bodies and faces changed completely. I grew up in a neighbourhood in London that was quite mixed, but as with most areas in London it was a specific mix. At that time, for example, my primary school was largely composed of Italians, Greeks, Northern and Eastern European Jews, and South Asians. At my secondary school on the Canadian prairie the mix shifted to Ukrainian, Nordic, German, and what I think of as ‘old’ English faces (the kind of faces you see in the Southern US too, but rarely in England anymore). Through sheer proximity and familiarity, those faces became as attractive to me as any of the boys I had grown up with in London.

Nevertheless, familiarity is not a universal condition for learning desire. One of the dangers of learning about love in a racist world is that you might learn not to value the people you spend the most time with. My family of origin is entirely South Asian, and South Asian men simply do not fit the criteria of desirable masculine bodies in the West. They are often shorter and slighter than the British or North American average and they have higher-pitched voices or different registers of expressing emotion, which make them read as too feminine for men. (And, if you’ve spotted the stereotype in the Big Bang Theory, well done!) At the same time because of increasing paranoia and Islamophobia in the West, South Asian men read as violent, abusive, and dangerous, the more despicably so because they don’t seem like ‘real’ men. The particular problem of South Asian men is that they appear both violent and effeminate, contradicting Western gender norms in two directions at once. Now is a particularly difficult time to be a South Asian man, or a brown man generally, and be a desirable subject. South Asian women raised in the West, raised on Eurocentric ideals of masculinity, also find it difficult to find South Asian men desirable. One of the smaller, but intensely tragic effects of colonial culture, is finding you cannot love the men and women who look like you.

At some point during the conversation in the pub, the young women asked of me ‘what kind of men do you find attractive then’. I’m not sure whether this was the casual prurient curiosity students have about their professors, or whether they thought I had a solution to the problem of desire. I gave them one answer (much googling on smart phones ensued once again), but to be wholly honest will require another blog post.









In the course of my teaching career, I’ve only had one personal conversation with a student about how pedagogy works as a scene of desire. The student thought that one reason straight female students experienced desire for straight male professors is because they have something to offer (their youth, beauty, interest), whereas straight male students have nothing to offer straight female professors (their youth, their inexperience, their lack of knowledge in comparison with the professor). It is an accurate analysis, not because that is how it actually works but because that is how it is supposed to work, and you’ve seen this scenario in probably every film and television series about university students ever made. Men are desirable because of their knowledge, experience, and authority. Women are desirable because of their interest in men’s (superior) knowledge, experience, and authority. It does follow from this that male professors are, de facto, desirable, and female professors are a problem.

As a phd student I tutored a course where one young woman unconsciously performed a highly charged, slow motion toss of her long beautiful hair every time the course leader, a senior male professor, was anywhere near her. I remember it because it contrasted sharply with my own experience of the, few, straight young men in the class who always seemed to be angry with me (gay students behaved quite differently). When they did come to tutorials, they constantly argued with me in unconstructive ways, challenging my authority rather than forming their own arguments. When I answered their questions, they were never impressed or persuaded, but seemed even more displeased that they had been openly contradicted.

Much of this is par for the course when you first start teaching. If you haven’t noticed it before in daily life it is a shock to realize that here too heteronormative and racist patterns of relating to bodies are the norm. And of course, you become implicated in it yourself. At first you are angry about it, then you find you’re inordinately pleased when male students are impressed with your teaching because you must really be good if, finally, they think you are good at your job. Or, on the other hand, you encounter brilliant young women and catch yourself pushing them harder than the male students because you don’t need them to approve of you. Or, perhaps you befriend your female students because it is easier to relate to them, thereby working around the question of sex-gender tensions, and your male students feel that you are oddly unapproachable.

Here, as elsewhere, the thing is to unravel your own thinking about pedagogy and desire, as both student and teacher. Until quite recently I thought that I had made peace with how I teach, but what shaped me as a student gives me a persistent sense of myself as an undesirable body in the classroom, in academia, in the world generally. I am not sure you can deconstruct your relationship to teaching separately from your relationship to learning. Perhaps this is why I like to imagine love itself as a pedagogical process, one that is mutual and reciprocal because both lovers are student and teacher in turn.

I stay close to the example of the university classroom because it forms the ground of my every day life, but the questions and problems aren’t confined to that space. The classroom is not separate and insulated from the world, and learning is not a process that is confined to formal educational institutions. I find myself returning to the questions I’ve asked in other posts this month, can you learn what you don’t already know? Can you love what you’ve never imagined? Are there things that cannot be learned? What are the conditions under which you could love differently? What is a teacher-lover to do in a world where students can only learn what is already familiar, imaginable, recognizable?








During my first term as a graduate student I was in a seminar where something went wrong between various students and the professor. The professor gave unwelcome sexualized attention to one member of the seminar, made openly patronizing remarks to others, under-marked some coursework, and was unwilling to discuss any of this with the students in the presence of the Director of Graduate Studies. There was nothing especially egregious about this particular case and it did not result in any sanctions against the professor. As a faculty member myself now, I would say the professor in question was not a particularly skillful teacher, and had the bad luck to be called on several instances of unacceptable behaviour at the same time by an organized group of students.

It was known in the department, I heard from one of the students who made the complaint, that several female students had found it difficult to work with this particular professor, but no-one had ever conclusively shown that they were harmed. In this particular case, I think the advice of senior female faculty not to pursue a complaint was actually a form of care for the student. They had the experience and judgement to recognize that nothing would change except that a promising young scholar’s career would finish before it had even started.

I did not think very much about the professor or that experience again until some years later at the end of my first year as a phd student when, with the fullest measure of naivety that I am capable of, I happened to write on a feedback form about my first year in the program that my supervisor and I were not building as much rapport as I would have liked.

The next supervision was a painful experience. My supervisor had seen my comments on the form and proceeded to give an impassioned speech about how difficult it was as a male professor to supervise female research students. I knew that I had offended him very deeply, although I had very little context for understanding why the situation was quite so fraught. I thought that I was simply expressing an ordinary, human failure to connect, nothing that a few beers at the local pub wouldn’t fix. I do remember that I had chosen the word rapport specifically to implicate myself in the problem, and not to accuse my supervisor.

We never spoke about this again after the speech, but it coloured the whole of my experience as a research student because it intersected in a particular way with two things: my own narratives about myself as a desirable subject, and the cultural narrative about love and pedagogy that I wrote about yesterday.

My supervisor explained that it was not possible to develop too familiar a relationship with female research students because it could be so easily misconstrued. He had decided to manage the risk of misconstruction by maintaining a professional relationship with his students, but one that was carefully managed to avoid anything that could open the way to an actual human relationship. I understood that, and it made perfect sense to me, but it also meant that my experience as a research student became incredibly lonely. I continuously felt that I was some sort of problem to my supervisor and I had to manage all the emotional and motivational difficulties of my graduate work by myself. I didn’t feel that I could reach out to him.

This is a difficult thing to write about because as I know from my earliest days as a graduate student, professors make unwelcome sexual advances to their students, and I don’t want to minimize the harm and pain that it causes to the students. Sexual harassment, on whatever scale, is always an egregious violation of the trust a student places in you. At the same time, we are surrounded by narratives about the eros of pedagogy, especially between older men and younger women, and how I experienced my intellectual apprenticeship was not so much even an undesirable subject, but a completely indifferent one. It was possible for my supervisor to simply decide not to notice me as a human being at all, and simultaneously read and engage with my words.

This experience reinforced the split, that many scholars have written about in academia, between the body and the mind for me. From my early teens, I figured that I didn’t have very much to offer people except my intellect, but when it was so resolutely separated from my body, the effect was especially curious. I became more and more convinced that my dissertation had to be something really remarkable to make it possible for my sense of self to survive the process intact–I had to make up for the indifference that my physical presence elicited.

When you find yourself a narrative, the evidence that confirms your reading gathers around you with ever greater intensity. Every seminar I attended, every conference paper I gave, began to be shot through with this strange sense that I was there purely as a mind. I didn’t exist except as my ideas. Sometimes I think this was probably helpful. I went to conferences where some of the scholars I admired most came up to me to express their interest in my work and I was not alarmed, as I really ought to have been, because my body was elsewhere.

The final nail in my coffin came at a conference in Denmark when I gave a paper about the disappearance of women of colour in psychoanalytic theory, using the work of several Indian theorists to show how we might return race to the schema. During the question and answer period one member of the audience, without any academic expertise on my topic or in my discipline, proceeded to give me a mini-discourse about how Indian women needed to learn the lessons of Western feminism. I could see that no-one else in the audience agreed with her, but she was very striking and held everyone’s attention, probably because she was so physically at ease in the centre of the room. She had been a model and after a successful modelling career had decided to study for a doctorate. After the panel, several people came up to me individually to express their agreement with my argument and interest in my work, but for me the damage was complete. My confidence as a scholar was never the same after that particular conference, not because I don’t believe in my work, but because in one more perverse twist, my bodily presence worked against me. My body didn’t matter, and I thought I had learned to live with that, until my body did matter because my mind couldn’t make up for the fact that I wasn’t some other, actually desirable woman. I couldn’t be in the same place where my work was. And I couldn’t be without my work.

Years of studying race and gender should have led me to understand these kinds of experiences in the world, except that such intellectual work is partly a self-protective gesture. It is an attempt to think your way out of the problem that your body becomes to you in a racist, sexist, homophobic world. But your body doesn’t cease to be that problem when you become an academic, it is there in place of the work.









It is useful to recall the etymology of ‘happiness’ relates precisely to this question of contingency: it is from the Middle English ‘hap’, suggesting chance. Happiness would be about whatever happens. Only later does ‘the what’ signal something good. Happiness becomes not only about chance, but evokes the idea of being lucky, being favoured by fortune, or being fortunate. Even this meaning may now seem archaic: we may be more used to thinking of happiness as an effect of what you do, say as a reward for hard work, rather than as what happens to you. But I find this original meaning useful, as it focuses our attention on the ‘worldly’ question of happenings.

Sara Ahmed, ‘Multiculturalism and the Promise of Happiness’

By the time I was eighteen the only conversations I ever had about love with the young men I grew up with were all explanations of why they could never consider having a relationship with a woman of colour. Invariably, these explanations were about what these men could and could not visualize. One explained to me that he knew the genealogical history of his family all the way back to medieval England, and he would not like to be the person to spoil the purity of this historical line as it travelled towards the future. Another couldn’t imagine a time when he might find a woman of colour physically attractive. At the time, perhaps because I was young, or just because I’ve been brought up to be polite to racists, and certainly because, in one case, I cared so much about the affection of the person in question, I did not question the logic of these explanations. These things just happen, you can’t make people love you.

But, actually, the canonical nineteenth-century novels that form the staple of period drama serials, such as Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre, are about the peculiarly pedagogical scene of love. I find it faintly amusing that these dramas induce such raptures in the women who are their primary viewers, because the pedagogical work involved in falling in love with Mr Rochester or Mr Darcy, and indeed in obtaining their love, strikes me as daunting, which is something you cannot fail to notice when you read the novels. Nevertheless, the promise of these tales seems to be that even if you can’t make people love you, you can both teach them to love you and learn to love them. Love, in the nineteenth-century British novel, is a reciprocal pedagogical encounter–it is vital that each person learn what they are supposed to learn about each other, and themselves, for love to occur.

What might be the conditions of such a pedagogical encounter? Is it the case, as I discussed a few weeks ago in relation to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s work, that it is only possible for people to learn what they already know? The novels suggest that falling in love is a process of learning and teaching, and yet they consistently fall back on the notion of a pre-existing love. ‘Perhaps I did not always love him as well as I do now,’ says Elizabeth Bennett, archly, confirming our cherished notion that people just happen to fall in love and the truth of this is revealed to them. Love as a revelation or enlightenment does not really require you to learn anything, you just have to see it.

But of course one could make the argument that the moment of ‘seeing’ always already conceals the lesson. You’ve already done the learning and forgotten it. You’ve already learned what is good, beautiful, and desirable, and now you simply extend yourself towards it as if it were natural to do so. What could be more predictable, for example, than the attraction between Mr Bingley and Jane Bennett? In this sense, Mr Darcy falling in love with Elizabeth Bennet is of interest because he learns to see beauty and value in qualities that he has not been trained to see as beautiful before (skin slightly tanned from travelling outdoors in the summer, a direct manner of speaking, a feel for music rather than technical excellence). He learns, eventually, not to overlook what Elizabeth Bennett isn’t, but to love what she is.

We are not accustomed anymore to thematize love as a lesson, which is a pity. If we could imagine love as a pedagogical scene, the possibilities of who we might love and who might love us would be much wider. Postcolonial literature, strangely, still does not offer very many interventions into this cultural narrative about love, although it would take another essay to explore that observation more thoroughly. More often than not, interracial love is still largely a tragic affair, in either Othello or Romeo and Juliet mode. Our cultural imaginary of interracial love is clearly underdeveloped.

I imagine that some, many, readers would find this very unsatisfying. After all, it isn’t very romantic to suppose that love is something other than beautiful happenstance. I suppose I can understand that. At the same time it certainly isn’t romantic to live in a world where you can never become desirable simply because of who you are. Even worse, it isn’t romantic to live in a world where you have learned to love others and they cannot seem to learn the lesson in return, perhaps do not even want to learn it. It was only some time, and many university courses in gender studies, literary theory, and cultural critique later, that I thought to ask myself how it was that I had learned to love white men. It wasn’t inevitable, and it wasn’t necessarily going to be greeted with approbation at home, but it happened nevertheless.






















When my father knew he was dying he began to write his memoirs. Unsurprisingly for a psychiatrist he gives his account in the form of an extended life-history. The things he mentions are the markers that a doctor would look for in the background and development of a patient, and being something of a Freudian at heart he gives particular consideration to his sexual development. Here and there are episodes that stand out vividly from the case notes, experiences that obviously made their mark on him but remain unconnected or at least undeveloped into thematic coherence. He tells the reader that at a young age he persuaded other children in the neighbourhood to collect small pieces of glass, broken china, and other shiny objects that he considered ‘money’ for him until he had amassed a sizeable treasure horde, but we never learn what this portends or why he mentions it.

I’m not sure if it was his intention to publish this account, but he did have it typed up and sent to friends and mentors. I found the manuscript three or four years after he had died and filed it along with various other papers that formed his personal archive, though I was unsure what I wanted to do with it. It does not have literary qualities that make it interesting to anyone who did not know him, but it must have taken him a great deal of time and energy to craft. He wrote it longhand, in several versions, both in French and in English, before it was finished to his satisfaction.

It is an unsatisfactory piece of life-writing, constrained by the medical discourse that its author knows best, and suffused with a sense of all that he did not manage to make of his life. It is a life that might not be worth writing, which is what the text is not able to say explicitly. It is, however, more than his mother and grandmother were able to leave behind them. It is some kind of trace of having tried to make something out of the short experience of life he did have. And perhaps there is enough in this rough autobiography to begin building an archive of one family’s history of migration, diaspora, racism, and unhappiness. My father’s unhappiness, at first, looks very different from my grandmother’s, or her mother’s, but if I travel out from his text perhaps what looks like difference will become a faint pattern of resemblance, perhaps even a theory.

It’s characteristic of me, though, to think primarily of text as things that are worth making and crafting, to find my father’s account of himself interesting because it is an object I can make something out of too. I began the week by thinking about the things my grandmother made, the ephemeral archive of her life and body, and I realize that I don’t know how to get from her craft to my father’s, or to mine. I don’t think I know how to find her in her archive because I don’t understand as well as I would like what kinds of things people make than words and texts. If I want to find the traces of Dadi’s life in the world now, I suppose I have to go into my kitchen and start cooking. She brought us up on the indentured Indian labourer’s diet, Mauritian cucina povera, which is food that hardly anyone bothered to capture in recipes until very recently. And yet, I repeatedly return to the thought that the only things she made are gone, consumed or scattered, including my own father’s body, while his autobiographical text, however fragmentary, remains.







Dadi must have looked like her Sikh Punjabi father more than her Hindu Bihari mother. I have no evidence for that claim except that I once saw her at a Diwali celebration organized by the large, local population of Canadians who had migrated from the Punjab two or three generations before. As I was standing waiting to go on stage, I looked out at the audience and noticed not one or two, but tens of little old ladies who looked just like my grandmother–the same bright almond-shaped eyes set above the same sharp nose and completed by the same thin, plaintive lips. These tiny old ladies were interspersed among others who clearly outnumbered them, the tall, sturdy looking women who were surely the descendants of capable farm wives, but they were there. My grandmother had been dead almost a year when I saw her again in Canada.

I’d never understood that Dadi’s face was Punjabi. My father, who inherited Dadi’s eyes, was given the name Randheersingh, in honour of his Sikh grandfather but that was the extent of the family connection to the Punjab. I wonder now what she saw in her own face. Did she actually look like her mother and find ways to mask her resemblance to the woman who had left? Did she wilfully turn herself into a pure reproduction of her father so that he would be spared the thought of his runaway wife? Perhaps resemblances were irrelevant once her stepmother and then a half-sister arrived on the scene.

I inherited Dadi’s eyes too. When people meet me and my mother they always exclaim at the amazing resemblance between us. It isn’t possible for them to meet me beside my father, and notice that my facial features are actually his. When I stop and look at photos I am struck by it too, but all my life people have been telling me that I look like my mother, so it confuses me. Is it my face, or my mother’s, or Dadi’s? If Dadi ever looked at her own face and did not know where it came from, I would not be surprised. I have done the same thing many times.

Wherever it came from, that must be where the melancholy came from too. In 1920s Mauritius I don’t imagine that very many young married women left their homes and their children simply because they found it was not what they wanted. Dadi’s mother did not make any claims against her husband or ever try to return to the family home, neither did she run away with a lover or leave the island. She must have been an unfathomable sign to the people around her– to leave what was known and understood for nothing more or better, just different. We don’t have any explanation for her.

Dadi never spoke about her, but she must have worried about it. What if she was like her mother? What if her life one day seemed intolerable to her as it was and she had no other choice but to leave it behind? What could have made it so intolerable that she would have had to take up the resemblance to her mother, instead of her father? But maybe those are my anxieties, and not Dadi’s. She lived as though she never saw any resemblance. She devoted her life to being a wife and mother in a way that she had never seen or known firsthand. She bore no resemblance to her mother. And yet, melancholy still took its place in Dadi’s life, though it arrived with the death of a child and not the birth of one. She did everything as she was supposed to, as her mother had not, but it came to nothing more.

There’s a photo in the album my parents made of the first year of my life, a single black and white picture of an old woman sitting on a chair placed in a garden. The formal composition of the shot is unhinged by the informality of the outdoor setting. The old woman fills the frame and is holding a very recently born baby stiffly in her arms. For the first time, after all those years, tracked down by her grandson, living alone in her own home in another part of the island, she is holding her great-granddaughter. Her expression is very difficult to read.






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