Diary

Hilary Mantel

When the Salman Rushdie affair broke, the first thing I thought of was the day we tried to buy a bookcase in Jeddah. Jeddah is Saudi Arabia’s most sophisticated, cosmopolitan city. Compared to the capital, Riyadh, it is liberal and lively. It is also of course very rich. Its shopping malls, with their icy airconditioning, are temples of marble and glass, of lush greenery and tinkling fountains. They are something like the Muslim vision of Paradise; only the houris are missing. You can buy a fox fur, if you like, or a portrait of King Fahd, or an American-style donut; a king-size sofa with a stereo built in, if that takes your fancy. But you couldn’t, in 1983, find a bookcase anywhere. No call for them.

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