Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Happy Birthday!

"Thank heaven for little girls, for little girls get bigger every day." Alan Jay Lerner

"The kids are alright." Pete Townsend

Sunday, October 15, 2017


I'm following the news of the California fires in the hope that the Xurus winery has been spared. It is co-owned by Ali Namdar, who in Munich in the 1980s was a wise, generous and loyal comrade whose company I enjoyed enormously. Although precise news is hard to come by, I worry that there are mentions of evacuations of Lake County, where the Sonatina Vineyard is located.

My fingers are crossed, old friend.

News of a kind

At a time when 'fake news' is a much-discussed issue, it seems to me harder and harder to take a nuanced approach to the topic. The world's best restaurant is an accolade which inevitably grabs the headlines, but the verdict was not reached by any of the usual pundits, at the Guide Michelin, the Gault Millau or similar. 

It was the website TripAdvisor that awarded the prize to the pub after collecting millions of reviews and opinions from customers over the past year.

Not that I begrudge the Yorkshire restaurateurs their moment in the limelight, not for a moment. But the affair does serve to remind me to be vigilant about the source of any news story.   

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Frankfurt & Cannes

Years ago it would have been unthinkable for me not to represent Swan Verlag at the Frankfurt Book Fair, or CORA - La Compagnie des Réalisateurs Associés in Cannes. October was a month I always looked forward to.

How fortunate I feel now that so much of these events can now be experienced virtually via the web!

Although I miss the tram ride to the Buchmesse that Johnny Pigozzi captured in a snapshot I still quite like.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Writing matters

That's a slight exaggeration. Although my manuscript is closing on the 140 thousand word mark, there is an important penultimate scene still to be drafted. But I now see light at the end of the tunnel into which I stumbled in July 2016. "In Soviet Georgia, where they eat a lot of yoghurts, a lot of people live past a hundred."

I had found the American television commercial launched in 1973 by pure chance on YouTube. Then I recalled the assertion of Marcus Tullius Cicero in De Senectute... "No man is so old that he does not think himself able to live another year."

Factor in the spleen of a frustrated storyteller in his seventy-seventh year, the notion of a narrative featuring a protagonist a couple of years older than I, written in the first person and largely set in a country, Abkhazia, that few people have even heard of 
and that was the start of an undertaking which has simply grown and grown and in ways which will probably be deemed absurd. But my work could not possibly attract fewer Kindle buyers! 

When I read reviews Robert Harris's Munich there were complaints about his inclusion of passages with too much marginal information, a bit like Wiki entries. Frankly, I found only one. My own manuscript has dozens! I shall not, during the coming weeks of editing, cut a single one!

Monday, October 09, 2017

October evolution

All our yesterdays were once tomorrows!

Could they have imagined in 1917 that a century later, the Capitalism-versus-Socialism debate would still preoccupy the chattering classes, if not so much in Russia, in some quite unlikely parts of the world?

My hope is that Artificial Intelligence will soonest lead to robots which can laugh at us!

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Reading matters

How could I not buy Robert Harris's latest book? I even broke with my recent habit of restricting my acquisitions to Kindle titles offered free or priced not above EUR 0.99.

So I spent EUR 12, and I look forward to the kind of storytelling Harris delivers so reliably. I allowed myself this extravagance (after months of circumstances so straitened that I often bought no cigarettes for up to five days on end) as a result of having a decently remunerated work assignment after a summer season during which there was no demand for my services. It's so nice to feel solvent!

The only downside is the danger that reading Munich will affect my writing of the sequel to Chance of Reign. I'm thinking that I should end my own narrative just before Neville Chamberlain arrives in our city.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Unity and ambiguity

The Beetle and the Trabbi are as fitting icons as any to symbolize The Day of German Unity on 3 October, a German national holiday since 1990 when the reunification was formally completed. There is no doubt that the Google doodle has an insouciant charm.

And yet it is a strange ambiguity that niggles and gives cause for concern. 

For it was in the land of the Trabbi that in the recent elections the populist right-wing AfD party achieved over twenty-percent of the vote. Although already plagued by a degree of internecine disarray, they will be a disruptive presence in the new German parliament. There are reasons for this, just as there were reasons for the flourishing of the toxic Pegida movement in the eastern states of the federal republic. Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, they called themselves, and cared not if their supporters included strong neo-fascist elements. 

Twenty-seven years on I feel that ambiguity still trumps unity. And both the Beetle and the Trabbi are guilty of noxious emissions.