Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A dog and her man


For my last long flight, back from Zimbabwe in February, I took Philip Roth's American Pastoral as airline reading. Sure the guy can write, but can he edit? On and on, and such a mean-spirited rundown man emerges from it, some curious blend of arrogance and self-pity. So much did reading the book pain me I chose to read nothing, for hours, rather than continue.

So coming to Vancouver I brought a back-up. And read the back-up first. But the flight was so long I was then able to get beyond the somewhat ponderous opening of Halldor Laxness's 20th century Icelandic classic, Independent People, and became engrossed.

Here's a treat of a paragraph from it, about a man and his dog, a dog and her man:

Bjartur did not make the journey to Summerhouse till the following day. The dog padded along beside him in blissful anticipation. It is lovely to be going home. And whenever she was a few yards ahead of her master she would halt and look back at him with eyes full of an unwavering faith, then return to him on a big curve. Her reverence for her master was so great that she did not presume even to walk ahead of him. A dog finds in a man the things it looks for. He leaned into the gusts of driven snow, leading Blesi by the reins and casting an occasional glance at his dog--poor little thing, lousy and wormy, but where is fidelity to be found if not in those brown eyes--where the loyalty that nothing can subvert? Misfortune, dishonour, the pricks of conscience,nothing can quench this fire--poor little bitch, in her eyes Bjartur of Summerhouses must always be highest, greatest, best; the incomporable. Man finds in the eyes of a dog the things he looks for.

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