Writer in residence Neel Mukherjee is staying in Passa Porta’s writer’s flat. He blogs weekly on this experience, the texts are posted on the website of project partner the British Council and of host Het beschrijf.
I’m back home in London now. It feels like I’ve returned from an intensive exercise regime. When you enter the gym after years of slobbing and zero exercise, you feel cold terror: surely you’re going to have a heart attack if you step on the cross trainer, the treadmill is bound to swallow you, you’re going to die of hyperventilation … Slowly the increased alveolar capacity, the existence of hitherto unsuspected muscle groups, the body’s amazing capacity to deal with ‘good pain’ all take you by surprise, then you take them for granted. How good it feels. Then there’s all that endorphin rush.
The trick is to continue performing at that peak condition, perhaps even push it further, in un-gym-like conditions. Will I be able pull it off?
Every writer will tell you that there is a long-ish stage after beginning a book when they can walk away from it without much cost involved. Then something topples; you reach a stage when you know that you will have to finish the book or it will finish you. My residence in the Passa Porta writers’ apartment brought me to that point of no-return.
I found several things in Brussels: the heart of my novel-in-progress; the ability to work; some tangible result to show for my 6-week stay; solitude. But I also found something more elusive, more contested: happiness. I can truly say that I was happy in Passa Porta.