Halldor Laxness (1902-1998) was an Icelandic novelist who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1955 for “Independent People”. When I lost my copy of the novel in the tube in London, I figured my reading gods had said, “enough”. After all, the old testament followed the vicissitudes of the Jews and if I needed a reminder of just how tough life could be, I could focus on the Book of Job. Not sufficiently satisfied at a novel half read, I bought another copy and finished it recently. A tough read, but a startling conclusion.
On to “Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle”, by Vladimir Nabokov whose life roughly paralleled the time line of Laxness having been born in 1899 and dying at a young 78 in 1977. Try leaving Iceland for the somewhereabouts of Nabokov’s incestuous duo, Van and Ada. After the first chapters where the geneology is confusingly made clear, you might find a verbal (and other) conjugality that eludes the firmest of grasps, particularly as it alternates between Russian, French and English. I have a favorite sentence which is all I have as yet from the novel. “Je raffole de tout ce qui rampe.” (I am crazy about everything that crawls.) I can’t see Vladimir and Halldor exchanging pleasanteries at the bar, somehow.
But reading isn’t all. The crisis of the economy deepens and the atrocities in Mumbai undermine our sense of complacency in many ways. For my part, I realize that my life’s work is to not only sell but to live with fine things to remind myself what is so wonderful about man. There should be no compromise and I hope my past, present and (hopefully) future clients feel the same way. We have but one life to live and it should be lived in the belief that we are more than what almost any current newspaper says we are.