2 July 2020

Serendipity

Just yesterday, a remarkable co-incidence occurred. It is almost breathtakingly bizarre. I received the following comment from a fairly new visitor to this blog. The commenter is called John. He's a freethinking, well-read fellow from Glasgow, Scotland. John wrote this:-
Now here comes the weird bit. Just an hour before John posted the comment, I had been sitting on a bench by the duck pond in Whirlow Brook Park where I finished reading that very same book. In translation it is a haunting little novel with various different titles including "The Lost Domain", "The End of Youth" and  "The Land of the Lost Contentment". However, I was reading "The Wanderer" which I bought from a secondhand bookshop in Bloomington, Indiana in August 1976. Like "the lost domain" that bookshop no longer exists. You may only find it in memory or imagination.

In French, the book is usually known simply as "Le Grand Meaulnes" - Augustin Meaulnes being the central character whose adolescence and troubled quest for love and contentment in rural France is observed by the narrator - Francois Seurel. Interestingly, the title of "The Great Gatsby" was inspired by "Le Grand Meaulnes" which was published in 1913 and written by Alain-Fournier who was soon to die in World War I. It was the only novel he ever published.

In the summer of 1976, after the summer camp outside Cleveland had shut down, I was staying with my American girlfriend in Bloomington - south of the bookshop on  South Washington Street. Her name was Donna Smith. Years later, in this very millennium, I discovered by accident here on this blog that the maiden name of  my lovely correspondent Peace Thyme was Donna Smith! Not the same one but even so such a hell of a coincidence. Serendipity once more.

I completely lost touch with my Donna Smith but like Meaulnes and Yvonne de Galais, dismissing her from my memory has proved both impossible and tormentous. 

51 comments:

  1. Would you recommend Le Grand Meaulnes as a good read? Back in the early 70s when studying for my French A Level I read La Porte étroite by André Gide which seems to explore a similar theme. I may try to get hold of a copy (in English this time) and see if I appreciate it better now that I am a little more - ahem - mature.

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    1. As you have a grounding in French I think you will appreciate "Le Grand Meaulnes" JayCee. It isn't a hard book to read and just over 200 pages.

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  2. It does sound like serendipity YP. I also find John very well read and entertaining.


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    1. He has a lot of knowledge in his head but you and I have just got sawdust.

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    2. Marbles too. Should be a good match up against Neil's Middlesborough tonight?

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    3. If we don't win that game, League One is calling.

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    4. Late winner for the Tigers.

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    5. What a relief! One more win and we will probably stay up. But... next match is West Brom!

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  3. Life is strange sometimes and that's all there is to it.

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    Replies
    1. Sometimes you just have to shake your head gently and accept.

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  4. May we hear more about this mysterious Bloomington woman?

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    1. She was at The University of Indiana studying physiotherapy. She hailed from Indianapolis and I met her at the summer camp in Ohio where I worked.

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    2. And was she a good physiotherapist?

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    3. She had not qualified when we parted.

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  5. Replies
    1. Are you talking about The Lord God Almighty?

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    2. I'm beginning to think so.

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  6. A funny old world.

    I had to look up that name, Hameldaeme means Home in Scotland.

    Is the book any good?

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    Replies
    1. It is an important book of mystery, lost opportunity and adolescence. In its own small but significant way it has impacted on the development of The Novel.

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  7. THAT John is most certainly well read. I have been hoovering up his recommendations since he came to my attention two weeks or so ago. Consequently I have put in an application (to a higher authority, address unknown) to extend my life span to catch up with his reading list. Which begs a question which bugs me, not much - but still: Don't you think it wasteful what some of us do take to the grave without trace?

    U

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    1. Without trace? My reticent, rather shy father-in-law tilled his land for fifty years. He did not seek fame or fortune and as far as I know his name never appeared in any newspaper. He is remembered with affection by his children and grandchildren. He was a good man.

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    2. Oh my god, YP, that's not what I meant by "no trace".

      The question more a philosophical one, or maybe pointless. We accumulate so much knowledge, gain so many insights over a lifetime, some people more than others, yet we take them to our grave without further use. Even Einstein is dead. Pickled brain or not.

      To put it another way, my dear YP: What'll become of all those answers to fiendishly difficult pub quizz questions once you have bitten the dust? You can't bequeath that section of your brain to your grandchild. That's what I meant by "waste" - literally that of what our individual brain holds, and our individual brain only.

      Greetings from an ardent recycler,

      U

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    3. Thanks for the clarification Ursula and apologies for my misunderstanding.

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  8. Well, damn!! I surely didn't know where this post was going.... I know there are a lot of Smith's, but not many Donna's that I know of. If you tell me she was a natural blond, well then ..... It is surely odd (at least!) that you were reading that same book as the commenter. On the same day. I wonder how old his copy is? (I did date a wonderful boy named Neil once. Last name Shapero. Went off to VietNam and got himself killed. I try not to think about that.)

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    1. She was a natural blonde.

      R.I.P. Neil Shapero and the possibilities that died with you.

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  9. LOL ... in 1960-'61, I went to school with a Donna Smith in Huntington, WV when I was living with my Aunt & Uncle! There are a lot of Smiths and a lot of Donnas in this old world ... LOL

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    Replies
    1. But only one or two Marcia LaRues.

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    2. I graduated from Parkersburg High School in “65. Odd! I spent the night on the day I was married in Huntington. Double odd!

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    3. Was it Huntington West Virginia Mama Thyme? Population 46,000.

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    4. That is right! West Virginia.

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  10. Serendipity always makes me think how life has a way of leading our thoughts and memories.

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  11. That IS a bizarre coincidence! What are the odds? Was John spying on you through a telescope as you finished your novel? Did a curlew descend and rest on your shoulder? I've never read "Le Grand Meaulnes" but we have it in the library. I'll add it to my list! (Which is getting longer by the day, but in a good way. :) )

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    1. I did not see a drone flying over Whirlow Brook Park as I finished the novel.

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  12. I always think that those sorts of coincidences mean something. I don't know what it means but it's too freakish to be completely random

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    1. Such coincidences certainly do give one an eerie feeling.

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  13. Two good stories nicely tied together.

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  14. Serendipity - even just the word is enough to set my mind going, I love it!
    As for John and his reading, he must have more hours to the day as the average person (I believe it is 24). Much as I'd love to read more, I simply can not do that any longer; not just for lack of time (which I could change if I wanted to), but for my eyes.
    Speaking of reading, I have recently started on Kate Humble's book and enjoying it very much.

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    1. With your eyes, please make sure that you read books in good light. No straining. Kate Humble is frequently on British TV as a wildlife enthusiast. I like her honesty. There's no pretentiousness in that book. She is just being herself.

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  15. John is extremely well read, as you are of course, he has bestowed on you a curlew for your familiar spirit. Be thankful. Like the Librarian my eye sight is beginning to go, and of course opticians have been closed - such an intimate encounter when they are inches from your face. Where will it all end.

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    1. What is your familiar bird Thelma? Perhaps the humble pigeon to which you have referred in your esteemed blog.

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