Good to be Back in England

Michael Beard, aging Nobel laureate and wholesale curmudgeon, arrives at Heathrow after spending some time in Berlin:

He had reached the place where the amorphous overlapping ten queues narrowed down to three in order to line up for the immigration desks. And here he came, a gaunt parchment-faced fellow in a loden coat (Beard had always despised the style) sliding in from the left, trying to use his height to squirm ahead, angling his oversized briefcase at knee height to use as a wedge. Abruptly, driven by shameless rectitude, Beard stepped forward to deny the man space and felt the briefcase bang against his knee. At that moment Beard turned and sought out the man’s gaze and said politely, though his heart beat a little harder, “Terribly sorry.”

A rebuke poorly disguised as an apology, pretending manners to a man he would rather at that moment kill. It was good to be back in England.

From Solar, by Ian McEwan (published 2010).

Published in: on September 22, 2012 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  

On Paris

Much has been written about “the other Paris” (or, to be realistic, “the other Parises”), but Julian Green (sometimes written as Julien Green) sums it up nicely:

Paris is a city that might well be spoken of in the plural, as the Greeks used to speak of Athens, for there are many Parises, and the tourists’ Paris is only superficially related to the Paris of the Parisians. The foreigner driving through Paris from one museum to another is quite oblivious to the presence of a world he brushes past without seeing. Until you have wasted time in a city, you cannot pretend to know it well. The soul of a big city is not to be grasped so easily; in order to make contact with it, you have to have been bored, you have to have suffered a bit in those places that contain it. Anyone can get hold of a guide and tick off all the monuments, but within the very confines of of Paris there is another city as difficult to access as Timbuktu once was.

From Paris, by Julian Green (published 1991).

Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 10:09 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,