“Never let me go” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Standard

Ishiguro is an acclaimed author and a Nobel Prize winner. Both the title of the book and his reputation determined my choice on an autumn evening’s trip to the book store.

The novel is a dystopian science fiction. It is a sad story. My suggestion is not to read it when you feel low.

The story is narrated by Kathy – the main character – who grows in a sort of boarding school. She introduces other characters, colleagues and friends, with whom she shares the daily life. It was only towards the second part of the book that the author let’s the reader understand that the group of youngsters are actually clones, created for humans heeling and transplants.

“Because somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed like that: fearful of the world around us, and no matter how much we despised ourselves for it – unable quite to let each other go” is so human, when you think of it.

Advertisements

“A gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles

Standard

I bought the book in the airport in Bucharest. The title of the book sounded just right.

And so it proved. The story line, the author’ style and soft humour, the intertwining of history and human destinies made it an exquisite evenings’ companion.

The main character of the novel is a Russian aristocrat – Count Alexander Rostov – condemned by a soviet tribunal to house arrest in Metropol hotel in early 1920s. As amazing as it sounds, he managed to live his life to the fullest without setting a foot outside the building for over thirty years. That was with one exception, when he took his injured daughter to a hospital. The walls of the hotel became his allies. He put to use his intelligence, manners, character, skills and knowledge to help with grace all of staff and hotel guests on every appropriate occasion. He became a languages and West history tutor to an apparatchik. He worked as a waiter and became a headwaiter in the hotel’ s restaurant.

In his early days in the hotel he met Nina, a 8-year-old girl, who spent her days in the hotel, as his father was newly appointed to a party position in Moscow. Years later, Nina entrusted her 6-year-old daughter Sofia to Rostov, when she followed her husband to a remote camp in Siberia. Sofia grew to consider Rostov as her father… . And in mid 50s he arranged her escape to the US embassy when she was with an orchestra in Paris.

I finished the book with a sense of regret. I could have kept reading it. It is one of those books in which you read a line and close the eyes to savour the words.

My favourite lines: “…life does not proceed by leaps and bounds. It unfolds. At any given moment, it is the manifestation of a thousand transitions. Our faculties wax and wane, our experiences accumulate, and our opinions evolve – if not glacially, then at least gradually. Such that the events of an average day are as likely to transform who we are as a pinch of pepper is to transform a stew.”

Thank you 2018

Standard

for teaching me to unlearn,

for the joys and tears of happiness,

for a myriad of new relationships which helped me grow,

for a chance to make a change or two,

for love and kindness, humility and pride,

for new books and new lines,

for amazing skylines and the reminder that the Sun always shines, even when it is not visible to the eye

Hunters for love

Standard

Matilda approached her long chair on the beach. A man stood by, checking his mobile. Or, rather, pretending to.

– Hm, that’s my seat, he said.

– No, she replied.

– Oh, I thought you are attracted to me and chose this chaise long, he put on a smile.

“Here we go”, she thought, “a pick up line”.

Matilda laid down on her chaise longue, a 200 page report in her hands.

He sat down on a chair nearby and launched into his scenario.

– What’s your name?

– Matilda. Yours?

– Liham. Where are you from?

– The poorest country on this continent, she said.

– Oh, I know Cristina Smth. She exports luxury goods to your country.

As if she was supposed to know all Cristinas in exports.

– There are beautiful girls there, he sticks to his lines. I traveled to O. with a friend last year. He wanted a beautiful girl.

– And not too smart, preferably. Matilda just could not help it.

– And smart too, he had to adapt his lines. But I was not looking for girls. I was in love at that time. Broke apart though recently.

“Aren’t’ we all in love!?”, Matilda thought to herself, with sarcasm.

– I live in France now, she said, to see what else he has in his arsenal of lines. I am married.

– So what?, he exclaimed and kept it faithfully to his lines: I am French. But I travelled a lot. I am open-minded. I could be your lover.

He was really in love with his learned lines, so he continued:

– I am attracted to you. Your body. I like petites. I like to dominate in bed.

– It is an illusion you have, she spoiled his lines. Again.

Confusion on his face.

– You think “petites” is by definition “obedient”. Obéissantes. It is an illusion, she repeats.

– You have brain, he looked her up and down.

“Probably my brain is all over my body”, she thought.

– A No is a “No”, she said.

Five seconds pause. His plan B had to come to rescue.

– Do you believe in God? he asked.

– You ask because of this? Matilda touched her small cross pendant with a diamond. It is a gift from my husband.

– You are smart and fast. You do in life what you like. You are married and in love…. He stood up and handed over his business card to her. Call me. In ten years, maybe.

He marched to the sea and jumped into cool water.

“Who has business cards on the beach, in beach attire only”? Matilda was amused.

Couple of minutes later, Liham met his friends on the beach and mentioned to them that he leaves for Paris in the evening. Just loud enough so that Matilda can overhear.

Next morning, there was a sign on the door: “pardon us”. It was on the door next to Matilda’s hotel room.

Before the trip, her husband playfully warned her “careful with the guys there!” : “Darling, men come there accompanied by girls twice younger. Or, if they come alone, an army of skilled huntresses is after them. I cannot compete with either.”

After her encounter on the beach she thought: “oh, there is a third breed – beach hunters for love”.

Thank you Vilnius

Standard
Thank you Vilnius

for a show of Lithuanian activism – a protest at -2 for the sake of geese. Dear hotels, please pay attention to the pillows you order!

for a wonderful evening tour by my awesome Lithuanian friend and a taste of traditional cuisine in superb company.

your simply adorable Christmas Market (Kalėdos Sostinėje) on the Cathedral Square (Katedros aikštė) in the city’s historic center. 48 white wooden stalls offer local crafts, goodies and Christmas decorations. The jewel of the Square is the Christmas tree. 25 meters high, this year it pays tribute to the concept of time. My pics do not do it justice. I also witnessed a superb Christmas miracle idea to let passers-by transform dark into light: by a wave of their hand, trees light up and music plays to turn the scenery into magic. Superb idea!

Vilnius has a second Christmas tree and fair:

Thank you also for new and renewed partnerships, and a special kind of hospitality.

a superb winterish sunrise

followed by perfect white snow

surprising inner courts

a very special door to the University library to celebrate the origins

amber souvenirs for friends and family

a place of prayer at the Gates of Dawn and a reminder that humble is beautiful

Fun 10,000 meters up in the air

Standard

Me and my kid are on a plane to Nice. “Mom, relax. You are always tense on the road”, sound advice from the youngest and wisest family member.

We take off. Up in the air.  I read. Talk to my kid. 20 minutes later: “…. Marrakesh ….. we…..if you wish….Marrakesh!” I hear  the flight attendant’s voice.

My brain is collecting the pieces: “The plane is certainly bigger then the regular internal flights. And the flight attendants are of North African origin…. And they play specific music. …. Did we take the wrong passage, walking to the plane? These small airport! Oh, No! … And I was laughing last year about a consultant who instead of a flight to Florence boarded on one to Minsk”.

Face palm. Repeat. Done with relaxing on the road.

– Sweetheart, I think we are on the wrong plane.

– It’s ok, mami. It’s ok, the kid is trying to reassure me. Her beautiful brave face.

My brain: “I have money to buy a ticket back. Are our passports ok? Do we need a visa for? ….”

I take my ticket and move to catch the flight attendant.

– I think I am in the wrong plane.

– How come?

I show them my ticket.

– It is the flight to Nice!, the flight attendant says cheerfully.

– Why did you say “Marrakech?!

– I am from Marrakesh! he smiles.

– Who cares? 10000 meters above the earth?!

I am almost replacing my words with long beep sounds. I was far from my kid, in case you wonder.

– You do not want to go to Marrakesh? he keeps on smiling.

– No! Not today. I go to Monaco today. And I do not plan to look at Monaco from the other side of the Mediterranean.

Back to my seat. “We are fine. We will land in Nice, sweetie!:)” I say fully relieved.

“Mom, I also heard “Madrid” 🙂

“Sweetie, the other flight attendant introduced herself. She is from Madrid. The guy is from Marrakesh. They add a personal touch”.

After 5 minutes we all hear the pilot: ” We will land in N I C E in 20 minutes. The weather in N I C E is …”.

Amen.

We land happily in Nice.

“Welcome to Marrakesh!” I hear the flight attendant behind me. I turn with a smile. My middle finger has a slight temptation. The lady in me wins 🙂

Dear, whoever who had the idea of saying other cities names when the plane is 10000 meters up in the air, please do not. Let’s keep it standard on this one.