Life Times

Life Times by Nadine Gordimer Read Free Book Online

Book: Life Times by Nadine Gordimer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nadine Gordimer
guitar in that picture. But Siggie Bentheim (you could notice those hands, around the edges of the pages) read a paper.
    Stefan was not in that picture, but in dozens of others. In particular, there was one taken in Budapest. A flashlight picture, taken in a night club. Stefan holds up a glass of champagne, resigned in his dinner suit, dignified in a silly paper cap. New Year in Budapest, before Hitler, before the war. Can you imagine it? Eileen was fascinated by those photograph albums and those faces. Since she had met and married Waldeck in 1952, she had spent many hours looking at the albums. When she did so, a great yawning envy opened through her whole body. She was young, and the people pictured in those albums were all, even if they were alive, over forty by now. But that did not matter; that did not count. That world of the photograph albums was not lost only by those who had outgrown it into middle age. It was lost . Gone. It did not belong to a new youth. It was not hers, although she was young. It was no use being young, now, in the forties and fifties. She thought of the green albums as the record of an Atlantis.
    Waldeck had never been back to Europe since he came as a refugee to South Africa twenty years before. He had not kept up a regular correspondence with his scattered student friends, though one or two had written, at intervals of four or five years, and so for some, when Waldeck took his wife to Europe and America, he had the address-before-the-last, and for others the vaguest ideas of their whereabouts. Yet he found them all, or they found him. It was astonishing. The letters he wrote to old addresses were forwarded; the friends whom he saw knew where other friends lived, or at least what jobs they were doing, so that they could be traced that way, simply by a telephone call. In London there were dinner parties and plain drinking parties, and there they were – the faces from Atlantis, gathered together in a Strand pub. One of the women was a grandmother; most of the men were no longer married to women Waldeck remembered them marrying, and had shed their old political faiths along with their hair. But all were alive, and living variously, and in them was still the peculiar vigour that showed vividly in those faces, caught in the act of life long ago, in the photograph albums.
    Once or twice in London, Waldeck had asked one old friend or another, ‘What happened to Carlitta? Does anyone know where Carlitta is?’
    Siggie Bentheim, eating Scotch salmon at Rules, like any other English journalist who can afford to, couldn’t remember Carlitta. Who was she? Then Waldeck remembered that the year when everyone got to know Carlitta was the year that Siggie spent in Lausanne.
    Another old friend remembered her very well. ‘Carlitta! Not in England, at any rate. Carlitta!’
    Someone else caught the name, and called across the table, ‘Carlitta was in London, oh, before the war. She went to America thirteen or fourteen years ago.’
    â€˜Did she ever marry poor old Klaus Schultz? My God, he was mad about the girl!’
    â€˜Marry him! No-o-o! Carlitta wouldn’t marry him.’
    â€˜Carlitta was a collector of scalps, all right,’ said Waldeck, laughing.
    â€˜Well, do you wonder?’ said the friend.
    Eileen knew Carlitta well, in picture and anecdote. Eileen had a favourite among the photographs of her, too, just as she had the one of Stefan in Budapest on New Year’s Eve. The photograph was taken in Austria, on one of Waldeck’s skiing holidays. It was a clear print and the snow was blindingly white. In the middle of the whiteness stood a young girl, laughing away from the camera in the direction of something or someone outside the picture. Her little face, burnished by the sun, shone dark against the snow. There was a highlight on each firm, round cheekbone, accentuated in laughter. She was beautiful in the pictures of groups, too – in boats on the

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