Writing to be invited to parties
Traveling the world can be very exciting but sojourning the globe selling books is can be exciting still.
One time Lebanese writer, now passed away was in love with European kings and queens. Week after week he would write a column for us on different aspects of European history. His love partly came from the selling of books.
The man, a tall handsome, rather dashing character, as the English would say, had a farm in France, was once married to two women, not at the same time of course, but the last was a German buxom lady with blond curls, wanted to keep moving. He settled down in France after his American sojourn was over.
I heard he died recently as a somewhat of a lonely man, after trekking the whereabouts of his son, first Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
His last staging post was in Amman, and long before he came to write for us, he ran a bookshop in the suburbs of the Jordanian capital.
One time he wrote a column on Marie Antoinette, and I asked him who in the world in downtown Amman wanted to read about such a character though an important personality, he simply replied: "The diplomatic corps, ambassadors and officers stationed in foreign embassies, and it's good for reception invites."
He had an interesting story to tell. The man started off as a textbook salesman that actually developed into a widespread career, haunting him for the rest of his life. He wasn't the aggressive type of salesman but more like the genteel intellect, who would have you eating out of his hand after a few compliments.
With his base somewhere in the United States, he travelled the world selling what were then expensive glossy textbooks, the ones you thumb through with clean fingers, and too afraid to smudge the paper.
It was a hectic life which he seemed to have enjoyed. One of his first and great sales was in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1966. As still is I suppose, it was one of those exotic places that you want to touch only through history books.
"Who in the world would want to go to Afghanistan to sell books," I asked.
"I did, it was a great experience travelling there, I did it with someone else through Pakistan, we were that much from the world-famous Khyber Pass associated with mystique and colonialism," he said.
After that, he says the ball started rolling, going to nooks and crannies and places only American publishers would want to explore. Ethiopia was on his agenda, then South Africa, then Namibia, and a whole host of other places that I couldn't remember.
It was his blond hair and blue eyes that got him into Apartheid South Africa, they thought he was one of them until he spoke but then the disappointment was put to right because of his accent that was tarnished with Lebanese.
I once told him to write about these great places that are today imprinted on history, to write about his impressions of Kabul and its surrounding areas, of Apartheid South Africa, and the mines of Namibia, and did he see any Zulus!
"These would be great stories to read, valuable testimonies from a complete stranger wanting to sell books, and telling us how he felt travelling to these places.
The man was a great adventurer no doubt, he could write thousands and thousands of words as countless others did before him whom are far too numerous to mention.
But in Amman he just wanted the quite life, to be recognized for his worth, to be prized for his now intellectually sedate existence. He told me that's why he left his farm in France, it was too quite, no one to talk to, and no one to hug, it was cold despite the wine.
Amman was just about right for him, too small to be recognized for its ballyhoos, but large enough to establish friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and if writing was thrown in the social set up, it was more the better.
His columns were his personal things, if he wanted to meander through the world of European art and literature, well so be it. We in turn had plenty of politics, economics and social stuff to be covering in our little newspaper.
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