Letter to Jézuska

It is the Hungarian tradition that Jesus (Jézuska), rather than Santa Claus, who brings the presents under the Christmas tree. I e-mailed him this year, blind carbon copying the family 🙂 I guess it is one way to think what is important at this time of year, as well to provide practical help to the family. Here is what I wrote.

Dear Jézuska,

Well it is that time of the year again. There is nothing I need or want, only “would like to have”. I have a loving family, a nice home, a job that pays pretty good, reasonable health (although if you could arrange for a few less kilos, I wouldn’t argue), enough beer and pálinka, my sight, most of my hearing, and recently my very own mobile telephone. And I even have enough computer toys to keep this boy happy for most of the time. So, as I say, I have what I need and want – although perhaps one day you could arrange for a “Paul’s room” one day, that would be great.

Old Friends
When I think about what I would like, I think of old friends that are missing in my life. By that I mean books that have meant something to me over the years that have for various reasons are no longer with me. These books feel like friends: they gave me companionship, meaning and pleasure and I miss them. If I could be re-united for any of the list below, that would be just great. They don’t need to be brand, spanking new versions, second-hand is fine. Their value lies not in their newness, but in their oldness.

Zen And Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance”, by Robert M. Pirsig was one of those life-changing books. I first read in my seventh form year and while I didn’t understand a lot otf it, I do remember a central tenet of the book: that you need to have an intellectual construct, a mental image of a whole, of a “something”, e.g. a motorcycle, before you can do anything with it. You can’t fix a motorcycle, until you have an “idea” of a motorcycle.

The Power and The Glory”, by Graham Greene, is perhaps his greatest novel. For years I resisted reading it because of its religious overtones. But I relented and was overtaken by the power of this story of a nameless “whiskey priest” in Mexico and his search for redemption through his faith. A masterpiece that should be on the bookshelf of every intelligent person.

“The Honoray Consul” by Graham Greene. With a title like that, and a main character called Clara, it is a bit of a no-brainer to be reunited with this work. Although I should add, that that is as far as any similarity to our life goes!

Sisyphus“The Myth of Sisyphus”, and “The Stranger”, both by Albert Camus. The first left a big impression on me during my formative years, in the same way as did “Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – life is really a relentless struggle to find meaning but that very search for meaning is what gives life meaning. All very existentialist. “The Stranger” is the only book I have every read in a language other than English. It was a prescribed text in 6th Form French and while I don’t remember much about it, I do well recall the much quoted opening sentence, “Aujourd’hui, ma mère est morte.” It goes on to say, “Ou c’était peut-être hier, je ne suis pas sûr.” Weird, but compelling. (By the way, I would prefer English editions :-))

New Friends
There is nothing to say I can’t make new friends. I like Jamie Oliver and any cook books by him would be welcome. But there are a so many books out there that I have no knowledge of and so surprises are always welcome. I don’t know what I don’t know. (I would prefer not to have works by Witi Ihimaera.)

Thank you in advance.

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