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the armour of books

Mr. Fonseka seemed to draw forth an assurance or a calming quality from the books he read. He’d gaze into an unimaginable distance (one could almost see the dates flying off the calendar) and quote lines written in stone or papyrus. I suppose he remembered these things to clarify his own opinion, like a man buttoning up his own sweater to give warmth just to himself. Mr. Fonseka would not be a wealthy man. And it would be a spare life he would be certain to lead as a schoolteacher in some urban location. But he had a serenity that came with the choice of the life he wanted to live. And this serenity and certainty I have seen only among those who have the armour of books close by.

– Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table, chapter 15

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