Monday, 9 May 2011


A friend, Tom, understanding how my mind works, knew a couple of years ago that I'd enjoy a book by George Faludy, a Hungarian exiled from his homeland twice - once by the Fascists in 1938 and again by the Communists in 1956. He wandered the world, finally settling in Canada, where he spent a couple of months in a cabin on Vancouver Island.

Tom had given this book to Jen, our mutual friend. Tom said he'd ask her to send it on. In the slowness with which anything to do with this hut manifests itself, that book has just arrived in the post from Jen (living on her own island north of here) together with a note of how her garden is growing this spring.
The book is Notes from the Rainforest by George Faludy, whom George Mikes described as Hungary's greatest living poet.

So it's with intense pleasure that I open the book and read on page 2 about that island cabin:

" O solitudo, sola beatitudo! . . . I found myself alone in the cottage lent to me by the friend of a friend, a generous and trusting soul who has turned me loose without previous acquaintance in his two-room cottage. It is simply but comfortably furnished, has walls lined with books to the ceiling, and radiates, as houses sometimes do, the good sense, taste, and happiness of its owners. . . . When I was young the interiors of little houses such as this one - surrounded by forest, loaded with books, warmed by a wood-burning kitchen stove - always filled me with envy and schemes for obtaining one of my own to complete my happiness. But loyalty to one's vocation, if it happens to be poetry, generally means forgoing such luxuries or enjoying them merely as a temporary guest. The odd thing is, however, that although I love dachas as much as ever, the envy is gone. One of the best things about growing old (or even for growing up, for that matter) is the way one gradually learns to contemplate things without coveting them: to treat "life as a vehicle for contemplation and contemplation as a vehicle for joy," as a Spanish philosopher once put it."

The hut at Carbeth is not lined with books - there's a problem at the moment with damp - but if it were, it's still not a thing that many folk envy; but Faludy would have understood its true place in my own life.

The book, sent to me by Jen at Tom's suggestion is a delight to read, but at about the same age now as when Faludy wrote those words, I don't covet it. I'll read it gratefully and post it back.

Perhaps I should mention that Tom and Jen are poets - and both have realised (and act on) what Faludy was articulating: that we are temporary guests wherever we go.
And I more than most in this unfinished hut.