J.M. Ledgard opts for a sense of freedom, possibility and run-ins with Albert Einstein ...
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, November/December 2011
Autumn in the Ivy League. A Halloween jack-o’-lantern on the doorstep. A clear morning, with breezes all the way from the ocean. The colours on the leafy American street come as if from a dream: reds and golds gusting.
A brisk walk to a diner by the Princeton campus. Stools and counters are lined with chrome, the lighting is viscid. Breakfast is ham and eggs, coffee, a cigarette; the newsprint is inky, the news is from Moscow.
Mid-morning, an appointment with Einstein at the Institute for Advanced Study. A technical discussion, pushing around ideas about energy and star systems, Einstein hopping, the trees blazing through the window.
Meetings with students, a run around the muddy pitches, then back to the house.
Home is not home. It is a large upstairs apartment, Nabokovian you could say, with few items, some portable heirlooms…having arrived from Europe, having escaped all that, and yet the losses and victory of the war still too close to fall into any perspective.
The remains of the day are bright and warm on the bedroom balcony. Raked leaves burn on a bonfire in the garden below. Solitary drinking, smoking, listening to records; Polish songs, or Czech, at once far away and ever so close.
The special part is that this place is freedom, is possibility, is reinvention. Coincidentally, and impossible to see from the balcony, or even from Einstein’s study, it is the high-water mark of abundance on the planet, the maximum moment, of consumption without a sense of an ending.
J.M. Ledgard is east Africa correspondent of The Economist and a novelist. His latest book is "Submergence". He won a prize in the Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards 2011 for his Intelligent Life feature "Digital Africa".
Photo credit: Getty
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