Before flying back to Britain, I went to one of the few remaining second-hand bookshops in Los Angeles, Angel City Books, just off Main Street, in Ocean Park, Santa Monica. It’s my favourite bookshop.
I found a 1946 American edition of Animal Farm by George Orwell. In the flyleaf was a Book-of-the-Month reprint, introducing Orwell and hazarding that this could become “one of the great political parables of our time”.
I also got an old, worn, hardback edition of Almayer’s Folly by Joseph Conrad to read on the plane.
Joseph Conrad is one of my favourite authors. But I had not read him for a long time.
Almayer was a man with ordinary hopes and dreams, not that smart, manipulated by others, hated by his native wife, derided by the Dutch officers who patrol the river, outwitted by the Arab and Malay traders. In the end he loses the thing that keeps him going, the one thing he loves, his own daughter.
Almayer’s “folly” was the brand new warehouse the Dutchman built in the expectation that the British would pursue their claim to the river settlement where he lived, “for the British knew how to develop a rich country”.
But the British never came.
The financial crisis in Europe continues.
Yesterday David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, exercised his veto over the treaty designed to save the Euro.