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Be My Guest Reviews

Be My Guest by Priya Basil

Be My Guest

Reflections on Food, Community and the Meaning of Generosity

Priya Basil

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2 reviews

Imprint: Canongate Books Ltd
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Publication date: 24 Oct 2019
ISBN: 9781786898494

A meditation on the meaning and limits of hospitality today, from the shortlisted author of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize

4 stars out of 5
9 Jun 2020

"Basil continues the tradition of preparing labour-intensive dishes for friends and family"

Basil turns to the idea of “absolute hospitality”, a term used by Jacques Derrida, to question how far hospitality can be stretched. As a child, she attended the Sikh Langar (the community kitchen in a gurdwara) and recalls how, despite the promise of universal welcome regardless of faith, caste or gender, exclusion operated at the gates: the invitation wasn’t advertised to the wider community, and head coverings were a requirement of entry. Back then, she puzzled over the impossibility of providing enough food should everyone take up the invitation. Now, she can adapt Derrida’s view of “unconditional hospitality” as unattainable (“the only possibility of the thing is the experience of the impossible”) to conclude: “the very unattainability makes it exemplary”.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
13 Dec 2019

"Priya Basil’s reflections on food and sharing show us how we could lead more generous lives"

“Love is the ultimate natural resource,” she writes, and “to love is to be in a state of munificence . . . love is essentially an impulse towards giving unconditionally.” If you agree with that — and I do — it is simple. If we could learn to love beyond the narrow compounds of our own communities, we would become more hospitable creatures. Borders would crumble, resources would be shared and nobody would starve — these are the logical results of universal unconditional hospitality. In other words, if the whole world digested Be My Guest, we’d be OK.