For most of your long life, you looked to this uneasy translation with a mixture of dread and prurience, and now it’s upon you (“townsman of a stiller town,” from a poem you professed to hate and yet memorized, as was your way in all things), and the rest of us – your literary heirs, executors, apostates, and survivors – can say, with a kind of painful bewilderment, “The 20th Century is over.”
You were beautiful, and then you were elegant, and then you were a magnificent ruin – you talked better than most of the talkers, wrote better than most of the writers, and when it counted, you were brave. In all its virtues and vices you epitomized the country you abandoned.
The ‘bookchat world’ you held in such merciless contempt will now bury you in the encomiums that so pre-emptively appalled you (“They’ll say such dreadful soupy things about one – the open bar will beckon”), but time, perhaps, will be kind. And in the meantime, we’ll do the thing you wanted most: we’ll remember you – the writer, the raconteur, the polemicist … the last paladin of Camelot.