Thursday, January 7, 2010


I've just discovered that for years I've been repeating a favorite quote of mine that turns out to be quite a misquote, though there's a correspondence to the meanings of each.

Back in the 1960s I read an English translation of the Nobel Laureate Par Lagerkvist's novel THE DWARF, in which the title character is in the service of one of the Medeci. When Leonardo DaVinci is hired to do some work for his master, "the dwarf" spies the artist and inventor picking up a pebble and turning it over and over in his hand, intently interested in it.

"The dwarf" concludes from this:

"One for whom a pebble has value must be surrounded by treasure wherever he goes."

I know this because I just looked it up in an old record book in which I have written various excerpts and quotes from novels and poems and other writings.

But for the decades since I first read that and wrote it down, I've been remembering and repeating it differently, as I did for a great niece the other night at a family gathering. I told her that after spying Leonardo examining a pebble for what seemed like an eternity, "the dwarf" thought to himself: "What must the world be like for someone who can find a world in a pebble?"

Sometimes I've said: "How rich the world must be for someone who can find a world in a pebble."

This young woman, my grand-niece Sidney, is extremely intelligent and well-educated, and I was just musing on how the kind of knowledge she is acquiring can make life so much more interesting. I said that I feel very fortunate that I'm rarely bored because I've read so much over my lifetime that almost anything I'm presented with or encounter or that's just part of any scene I wander through evokes all kinds of interesting facts and information and connections to or distinctions from other facts and information, etc.

And this was true even in the early days after my relatively recent brain surgery (two months tomorrow) when I could do little other than eat and talk, unable to read or write or do simple math or answer an e mail or listen to music or watch a movie or TV show etc. etc. I still found life incredibly fascinating and observing the limited way my brain was able to operate and the daily progress that it was and is still making became the focus of a lot of that fascination.

Some folks might find that boring or too self-involved or self-indulgent, (especially those who put on their blog profiles that they see their lives, or everything in it from birth to the present, as "boring"), but fortunately for me, I don't and hope you don't either.

PS: I have several friends who've seen the film of THE LOVELY BONES and loved it, so even though I didn't, you might want to check it out for yourself.


Elisabeth said...

Your quote from the dwarf in the story, with which I'm not familiar, reminds me of the notion that the Russian formalists trotted out about the nature of art: 'to make the stone more stony', namely to see something mundane again from a different perspective.

This is the greatest richness of all and I imagine it has been enhanced for you of late following your surgery.

harryn said...

another gem ...

Toby Thompson said...

"The Dwarf" is a great novel. My copy was given to me by a friend in the FBI who was playing, undercover, a rich businessman seducing a low level mobster into being his dwarf--who thereby provided intelligence on the majors, whom he was serving.

As my friend said, "The good thing about being a dwarf is that you're close to the prince. The bad thing is that you're not the prince."