A dark blue canopy covered London and sank lower as the wind gusted harder and rain whipped across our faces. It was an angry night, and our spirits were under attack as we made our way towards a modest home in Highbury, London.
We did not expect what we found.
Anthony Wood is the founder of Angel Books. He is a great lover of literature and language. His company was founded 30 years ago, and ours was the privilege of attending a small celebration in his home to mark the event.
Angel Books is devoted to the notion that literature should be enjoyed by people who do not speak the language of the author. Antony is, therefore, devoted to the art of translation.
Now I know nothing about translation - except what I have read from Walter Benjamin.
But I am sure that Elena and I learned something profound about it that evening, and something more important.
Once in the company of the small ensemble of Antony and his friends and collaborators we had entered a small patch of paradise. Conversation sounded as exquisite Mozart sonatas sound, it entranced and made us lean towards it. Every note was a grace note, and shone back upon its player as it radiated warmth and light upon its reciever. Every question seemed designed to draw out only goodness, and every answer was rewarded with patient interest.
If every translation published by Angel Books were a child, no child would have more patient, tender and loving parents, firm and comforting at one and the same time, reproving never rebuking, correcting never punishing.
Literature and language. Here were lovers of both, long term lovers, and each was a lover of humanity too, even if wearied by decades of loving concern, maybe dismayed by the reluctance of the patient to respond to treatment, but lovers nonetheless.
The time seemed to stand still as all around us rays of golden light played around.
A delicate bouquet surrounded us.
The conversation of Angels is from the kingdom of heaven and it was all around us.
Unfortunately, it was time to leave, and as we walked away, holding hands, we turned back for one last look.
We would have to live and work now from the sweat of our brows.
Antony loves the English language. He loves Russian, German and other languages too. He loves literature and so do all his friends.
Here is a secret of life and love that lasts and lasts.
It must be more than a London secret.
It must have its equivalent in every city.
We hope so.