Saturday, July 08, 2006

Robert Tewdwr Moss (1)

The 10th anniversary of the death of Robert Tewdwr Moss fast approaches: his life was taken on Aug 26 1996. If you've never heard of him then you're in the most people club. He was murdered just as he finished his one and only work that would be sufficient to make his name: a travel book called Cleopatra's Wedding Present. It's a transgressive, beautifully written, often funny account of his few months in Syria in 1995 - it is, among other things, a gay love story in an Islamic mystery-land. His very sexual nature was an affront to the moral establishment of this country, a spiritual and emotional desert to him you might think, yet here he found riches of many different kinds - the comic and common humanity beneath the distracting illusions of religion and tradition (he was, after all, a quality secular gossip). Here he found the romantic love of his life in a life teeming with lovers. And, just as importantly, he found a subject to showcase all his great qualities, literary and personal, in one stunning final blast.
I am not the first to note the irony that it was in anything-goes London and not Syria - where he courted death by being who he was - that he lost his life. The second version of the book that he'd just completed was not found at the crime scene: it was the first draft - which had been rejected by his editor as not salacious enough - that got printed. God knows what the missing second draft contained. Yet despite or because of that, the book has enjoyed international critical success and been reprinted a number of times here and abroad.
Like many other people I loved Robert very much and was not always a very good friend to him. Over the next few weeks I shall write more about him. And if you want to read a travel book like no other, and make you a new friend in the author (albeit posthumously), find a copy of Cleopatra's Wedding Present.

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