Once famous, now in Warsaw

Well spoken, nice looking, the young doorman at the Hyatt hopes to read American studies at Warsaw University. A junior diplomat at a European embassy looked blank when I mentioned the name. At least the doorman said that he thought he was a Nobel laureate or something.


I am involved in a lovely project. The recording in English and Polish of the entire works of Joseph Conrad. Apparently, very little of his stuff has been recorded so this will have historic importance. The release of the recordings will coincide with the opening of a new museum at his place of birth in what is now in the Ukraine. Currently, I am working on Amy Forster. If you want to understand how a Polish immigrant found England 120 years ago and, indeed, strangely similar to how my father described his first impressions of England in 1945, then I recommend this short story. When offered a lump of white bread by the servant girl Amy, the starving Janko`s first amazed reaction is that this is the bread of the rich. He handles it with reverence and wonder before gulping it down.


After my daily workout in the Hyatt gym, 450 pln a month which, if you go every day as I have to, makes it cheaper than any public gym and pool in Warsaw, I have a cup of tea in the hall and study the text for a while. Yesterday, I observed a large van pull up at the front door from which a small group of people emerged. A very tall blond elderly woman dominated, but the centre of attention was her husband, a squat man with strongly Semitic features, whose puffy skin shone in the way that it does on people who are used to being looked at.


I met this couple years ago at the British Residence in Rome. I particularly remember the day. My wonderful American brogues were in dire need of repair and the cardboard I had put in them to offer some comfort from the bare cobbles of the streets had given up the fight to the stony gravel of the drive of the Villa Wolkonsky. My feet were sore but the embassy carpets were thick and comforting. The sense of relief rather outweighed the awe I should have felt at being presented to probably the most famous politican of his era. 27 years later, the man who opened the door to China entered the Hyatt Hotel almost unrecognised. Henry Kissinger.



2 thoughts on “Once famous, now in Warsaw

  1. Conrad has a very interesting method of story telling. He reveals story bit after bit, making you want more – but you can’t figure it out until you read everything.

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