In the prefaces to previous books I have expressed the hope that the reader will enjoy reading my book as much as I have enjoyed writing it, tra-la-la. This wish does not apply to Hanno’s Voyage from Carthage to Indonesia; the end result is satisfying, but to arrive at this end took almost thirty years of intermittent donkey work, dead ends and sweat. I hope that the reader will enjoy reading it much more than I have enjoyed writing it, and much, much more than I have enjoyed revisiting these essays, which had their genesis back in the ’90’s.
This is not only because of compatibility issues with thirty-year-old software. I am touched by an autumnal mood even in the normally pleasant task of acknowledging those individuals who have helped with the book, because so many of them are gone, either through death or simply losing touch. They have been acknowledged in the body of the work. After many years I have finally come to understand the lines in Goethe’s dedication to Faust.
Was ich besitze, sieh’ ich wie von Weiten,
Und was verschwand, wird mir zu Wirklichkeiten.
(“What I possess, I see as if from a distance, and what has
disappeared has become what is real to me.”)
Make no mistake, life is good. It is also sometimes poignant.
Houston and Taipei, 2021