“We were in a new world, old sins could be forgotten.”

November 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

One rare, wonderful occasions, one randomly reads the first sentence of a book and ends up not putting the novel down until the last word has been consumed.  And I had the honour of experiencing that magical occurrence today.  The last time this happened was springtime, two years ago, when I read The Way The Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald; I called in sick two days in a row (it was a thick book) and did nothing except stay in bed, read, absorb, weep, reread, and not sleep very much.

Today’s pleasure:  Absolution by Olaf Olafsson, an Icelandic author.  Short plot summary:  An old, bitter businessman reflect on his life and his “little crime” that haunts him for the past half-century.  Living in New York with a Cambodian ‘lady’ caretaker, he scorns his two failed marriages, children, love, and life in general.  He writes down his thoughts between bottles of wine and psychological weaknesses.  It’s a story of guilt, time, change, and… well, yes, absolution, in a sense.  It’s a relatively short (259 pages) and easy read, but it absorbs you completely and keeps you hooked until the very last page- and then you put it down with a whole tangle of unexpected thoughts in your head.

I’m a fan of good quotes.  Thus, a selection for your enjoyment (and my organization):

“Events that will cause turmoil in our lives often seem so banal at first that we cannot even remember them.” (10)

“Sitting a few yards away from them… I realized how trivial most people’s lives are.  What little difference it makes whether most people are born or die.” (111)

Yet I still have my hopes… a sign of old age.” (142)

I have always envied people who have the knack for describing their youthful selves in the third person, as if their pasts are no longer any of their business.” (155)

I did not know the rules of the game and was terrified of the unknown.  I hated you and yearned for you at the same time, yearned to spend my life in your company; sometimes I became wild with rage but crazed with yearning at the same time, and did not know which was which…” (155)

The smell of sea and tad and canvas and wet timber.” (173)

In America, people sometimes spend as much as two years on wedding preparations; the marriage seldom lasts that long.” (179)

I was not a decrepit old man, but part of the eternal energy of the metropolis.” (181)

What changes and what remains the same, what is transformed without out noticing and what vanishes without our remembering it ever existed.” (215)

I need beauty to be able to recount the ugliness, happiness to remember the sadness.” (217)

Beauty pleases me, but all the same instills melancholy and regret.  This is the way it always is when I sip old wine.” (217)

Sins are forgotten and errors are annulled as the years pass, but everything takes  time and the human mind’s capacity for remembrance is strong… Perhaps you will remain alive in the memories of other people, but they too will disappear and it will be as if you have never existed.” (232)

This is the way I wish to remember you, when I disappear into abysmal solitude, into a darkness unimaginably black, into a light brighter than the sun.  … This is the way I remember you in light and shade, in the modest silence after the thunder and rain.” (249)

When I write my reflections down on paper, I can sometimes persuade myself that it is the pen that controls the account and I am merely acting in an advisory capacity.  On the other hand, if I speak there is no question about who the author is.” (254)

There are also many wonderful quotes describing wine (“It’s like traveling back in time and inhaling a whole summer.”  pg.59) (“It’s like comparing the sound of a violin and a cello first, and then their echo.”  pg. 60). (“Big wines are too independent to behave properly with a meal.  Just like pianists: when they think they’re virtuosos, they play solo instead of accompanying the singer.” pg. 91) The main character may be a despicable, nasty brute of a man, but it’s a pleasure to read his appreciation of wine.

And there’s a lot of great snippets of phrases (“… no one argues with a condemned man… pg. 35, …raise a glass to toast sunbeams…” pg. 106).  And whole passages that makes my hair stand and toes curl.

If you have a moment and like thought-provoking books, go read this book.  If you don’t have the time, find it : )


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