FilmColumbia spans the world

Maurice? A film with James Wilby, Hugh Grant, Denholm Elliot and Ben Kingsley? I’ve been looking through this year’s FilmColumbia lineup, fascinated by the Frank Langella tribute that begins it and a world of new stories from Oct. 22 to 29 — a man mentoring a boy in South Africa’s Xhosa territory, and an engineer on the highway between Bengaluru and Mumbai who picks up a guy selling bootleg DVDs, and Chavela Vargas, one of Mexico’s most loved musicians, who sang “rancheras” songs of lost love and loved Frida Kahlo …

But I didn’t expect an Edwardian novelist with a secret. E.M. Forster is one of my favorite writers, and I didn’t know about Maurice for years.

I met the book in an independent bookstore in Berkely on a winter morning — I flipped open a biography of E.M. Forster, the 19th century British novelist, and found myself in a Pacific artists’ studio 70 years after he made his name for A Room With a View, Passage to India and Howard’s End, watching Christopher Isherwood open a manuscript Forster had never published and most of the world never knew he had written.

Maurice himself is a muddled young man, in Forster’s compelling word. He’s vaguely out of focus, half in and half out of his own life for a while. And when the focus clears, it comes with a rush of strength. I remember him telling Alec Scudder near the end, “You can do anything, if you once know what it is.”

I’m glad he’s coming to visit, and a week of tales and music with him.

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