June 25: not Napolean but a pair of socks

Young men in Europe in the nineteenth century all wanted to be Napolean. He was the Christiano Ronaldo of his day. In fact, he remained the Christiano Ronaldo for nearly a hundred years after his death. Beethoven hero-worshipped him till he made himself emperor. You see it in Stendhal in France in the 1830s as you hear it from Svevo in Italy in the 1920s. In England, of course, Bonaparte was the bogeyman, used to threaten children. Christiano Ronaldo, then, or Messi or Delli Alli is the model for today’s boy. I wonder who mine is. Sometimes people ask who your hero is or your life model. It arises in quizes in women’s magazines. It’s in the famous Proust questionnaire. I never know what to say. Maybe I’m too old for a hero. Rather, my heroes are fragmented. I don’t take the whole man. I like Proust’s insight but I suspect him of snobbery and I’m not so keen on his moustache. I like Nabokov’s prose but he was pretty snooty too. So you wander around without a hero. I wonder if this is a condition of modern adulthood. You may also wander around with nothing to believe in and this can be held against you. It seems to me the height of balance and sophistication, having nothing to believe in. You end up believing in small material things. Marshmallow; nice figs; oysters; Mahler’s 6th symphony; a nice pair of socks. Not Napolean but they won’t let you down.


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