|My nephew Etienne and me deep in conversation about spies, the Cold War and novelist John le Carre, who has just released a new book. Our discussion made me think about how differently each generation views history. (All photos by John.)|
|It was all very serious, but we found something to laugh about.|
|History, schmystery -- Emi, with her mom Aya behind her, knows that a joke and chocolate cake (still on mouth) are the most important things in life.|
Every once in a while, John and I go to our bookshelves and pull out one of our old John le Carre favorites – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Honourable Schoolboy are the most thumbed – but we have them all. For us, they’re a staple, the best ones throwing us back into the scary days of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, and the Soviet Union as a stark, dark and merciless place where anything could happen.
So a big hole opened under my feet this weekend when my mid-30s nephew Etienne said he’s not only never read le Carre, but doesn’t understand what the panic over communism and British-spies-turning-out-to-be-Russian-spies was all about anyway. Of course spies are duplicitous, he said, what do you expect?
John and I spent the rest of our coffee date explaining the significance of events that -- to us --happened just yesterday: the Second World War, the Cold War, the Bletchley Park codebreakers, the elite Cambridge students recruited as spies, and the Queen’s art collector Anthony Blunt exposed as a Russian agent. The young people heard us out politely, but in the end, I realized it wasn’t a knowledge thing; it was a feeling thing. They may know the facts of my generation's history, but they'll never feel the Cuban Missile Crisis in their bones. The events of their own lifetime will bring them their own versions of our Cold War and British spy dramas; one is playing out right now with North Korea. I just hope they'll have someone as brilliant as le Carre documenting it for them.
|Outside the coffee shop, Emi finds something interesting to point out to her dad Etienne. The touchstones of her generation's history will be very different from Etienne's or mine.|
|Emi and Etienne share a laugh as mom Aya rescues the coats from the coffee shop. Life is pretty good, so far anyway!|