I Know This Much Is True Wally Lamb Mobi
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To fit the occasion, an introduction to the seven stories--are theystories?--in this book, should, therefore, contain nothing but theexhortation, "Here, read one for yourself. You'll need no introductionto make you read the volume." But having just finished a second readingof the volume, myself, I am so much under its spell (it feels exactlylike a spell) that I must seize this opportunity for babbling about it.Yet I can't even tell you the first fact about it which everybody wantsto know about a book--who is the author. In this case, all that we aretold is that the author is a Continental European, writing in Englishalthough that is not native to his pen, who wishes his-or-her identitynot to be known, although between us be it said, it is safe from thesetting of the tales to guess that he is not a Sicilian. Really allthere is to tell you beforehand is what you will see for yourself assoon as you begin to read, that the people in this book are a raceapart.
"But toward spring there befell me what I took to be a great misfortune,not knowing then what misfortune means. I fell ill, and as I was gettingwell the court physician, who was attending me, told me that I had lostmy voice and that I had no hope of getting it back. While I was still inbed I was much worried by this, not only by the loss of my voice itself,but by the thought of how I should now disappoint and lose my friends,and how sad my life would now become. I was even shedding tears about itwhen Rasmus Petersen came to see me. I opened my heart to him, to gethis sympathy in my distress. He had to get up from his chair and pretendto look out of the window to hide his laughter. I thought it heartlessof him, and did not say any more to him. 'Why, Jonathan,' he said, 'Ihave reason to laugh, for I have won my bet. I held that you were indeedthe simpleton you look, which nobody else would believe. They think thatyou are a shrewd boy. It will not make the slightest difference in theworld to you that you have lost that voice of yours.' I did notunderstand him. I think I grew pale, even though his words cheered me.
"'You know me, my good Rasmus, to be a poet," the Baron had said to him.'Well, I will tell you what sort of poet I am. I have never in my lifewritten a line without imagining myself in the place of some poet orother that I know of. I have written poems in the manner of Horace orLamartine. Likewise I am not capable of writing a love letter to a womanwithout representing to myself in my own mind either Lovelace, theCorsaire or Eugene Onegine. The ladies have been flattered, adored, andseduced by all the heroes of Chateaubriand and Lord Byron in turn. Thereis nothing that I have ever done unconsciously, without knowing wellwhat I did. But this boy, this Jonathan, I have really made withoutthinking of it. He is bound to be, not any figure out of Firdousi, oreven Oehlenschlaeger, but a true and genuine work of Joachim Gersdorff.That is a curious thing, a very curious thing, for Joachim Gersdorff tobe watching. That is a phenomenon of extreme importance to JoachimGersdorff. Let him but show me what a Joachim Gersdorff is in reality,and no reward of mine shall be too great. Riches, houses, jewels, women,wines, and the honors of the land shall be his for it.'
"As to you and me, Madame," said the Cardinal, speaking over their headsto Miss Malin, but apparently forgetting that he was no longer in thepulpit, for he went on talking as solemnly as he had done whenperforming the marriage ceremony, "who are only onlookers upon thisoccasion, and who know more about the matters of love and marriage, wewill consider the lesson which they, above and before all other things,teach us about the tremendous courage of the Creator of this world.Every human being has, I believe, at times given room to the idea ofcreating a world himself. The Pope, in a flattering way, encouragedthese thoughts in me when I was a young man. I reflected then that Imight, had I been given omnipotence and a free hand, have made a fineworld. I might have bethought me of the trees and rivers, of thedifferent keys in music, of friendship, and innocence; but upon my wordand honor, I should not have dared to arrange these matters of love andmarriage as they are, and my world should have lost sadly thereby. Whatan overwhelming lesson to all artists! Be not afraid of absurdity; donot shrink from the fantastic. Within a dilemma, choose the mostunheard-of, the most dangerous, solution. Be brave, be brave! Ah,Madame, we have got much to learn."
"It is a picturesque thing," said the Cardinal. "And what do youimagine, Madame, that the bull thinks of it? The plebeian bull may wellthink: 'God have mercy on me, what terrible conditions here. Whatdisasters, what a run of bad luck. But it must be endured.' And he wouldbe deeply thankful, moved even to humble tears, were the King, in themidst of the bullfight, to send directions to have it stopped, out ofcompassion for him. But the purebred fighting bull falls in with it, andsays: 'Lo, this is a bullfight.' He will have his blood up straightaway, and he will fight and die, because otherwise there would be nobullfight out of the thing at all. He will also be known for many yearsas that black bull which put up such a fine fight, and killed thematador. But if, in the middle of it, when this bull's blood had alreadyflowed, the King chose to stop it, what would the true fighting bullthink of it? He might go for the audience, even for the master ofceremonies then. He would roar at them: 'You should have thought of thisbefore!' Madame, the King should have his show. He has bred and rearedme for it, and I am ready to fight and die before the Great Monarch,when he comes in state to see me. But I am hanged," he said after amoment, with great energy, "if I care to perform before Louis Philippe."
"'Is it not?' the man said hopefully, and drank a little of it. 'Yes,this also is bad,' he said, as he put down his glass. 'If you call itgood, perhaps you have not much knowledge of wine? I have, and good wineis my great pleasure. Now I do not know what to do.
My father had a friend, old Baron von Brackel, who had in his daytraveled much and known many cities and men. Otherwise he was not at alllike Odysseus, and could least of all be called ingenious, for he hadshown very little skill in managing his own affairs. Probably from asense of failure in this respect he carefully kept from discussingpractical matters with an efficient younger generation, keen on theircareers and success in life. But on theology, the opera, moral right andwrong, and other unprofitable pursuits he was a pleasant talker.
Love, with very young people, is a heartless business. We drink at thatage from thirst, or to get drunk; it is only later in life that weoccupy ourselves with the individuality of our wine. A young man in loveis essentially enraptured by the forces within himself. You may comeback to that view again, in a second adolescence. I knew a very oldRussian in Paris, enormously rich, who used to keep the most charmingyoung dancers, and who, when once asked whether he had, or needed tohave, any illusions as to their feelings for him, thought the questionover and said: "I do not think, if my chef succeeds in making me a goodomelette, that I bother much whether he loves me or not." A young mancould not have put his answer into those words, but he might say that hedid not care whether his wine merchant was of his own religion or not,and imagine that he had got close to the truth of things. In middle age,though, you arrive at a deeper humility, and you come to consider it ofimportance that the person who sells or grows your wine shall be of thesame religion as you yourself. In this case of my own, of which I amtelling you, my youthful vanity, if I had too much of it, was to betaught a lesson very soon. For during the months of that winter, whilewe were both living in Paris, where her house was the meeting place ofmany bel-esprits, and she herself the admired dilettante in music andarts, I began to think that she was making use of me, or of her own lovefor me, if such can be said, to make her husband jealous. This hashappened, I suppose, to many young men down through the ages, withoutthe total sum of their experience being much use to the young man whofinds himself in the same position today. I began to wonder what therelations between those two were really like, and what strange forcesthere might be in her or in him, to toss me about between them in thisway, and I think that I began to be afraid. She was jealous of me, too,and would scold me with a sort of moral indignation, as if I had been agroom failing in his duties. I thought that I could not live withouther, and also that she did not want to live without me, but exactly whatshe wanted me for I did not know. Her contact hurt me as one is hurt bytouching iron on a winter day: you do not know whether the pain comesfrom heat or from cold.
I have looked since at those great buildings of the seventeenth centurywhich seem altogether inexpedient as dwellings for human beings, andhave thought that they must have been built for him--and his mother, Isuppose--to live in. He had a confidence in life, independent of thesuccesses which we envied him, as if he knew that he could draw upongreater forces, unknown to us, if he wanted to. It gave me much to thinkabout, on the fate of man, when many years later I was told how thisyoung man had, toward the end of his tragic destiny, answered thefriends who implored him in the name of God, in the words of Sophocles'sAjax: "You worry me too much, woman. Do you not know that I am no longera debtor of the gods?"
The wine helped us. I had not drunk much, but my head was fairly lightbefore I began. Champagne is a very kind and friendly thing on a rainynight. I remember an old Danish bishop's saying to me that there aremany ways to the recognition of truth, and that Burgundy is one of them.This is, I know, very well for an old man within his paneled study. Butyoung people, who have seen the devil face to face, need a strongerhelping hand. Over our softly hissing glasses we were brought back toseeing ourselves and this night of ours as a great artist might haveseen us and it, worthy of the genius of a god. 2b1af7f3a8