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Yes it is that time again to talk about books I am reading. I have always enjoyed reading since a very young age. My Mom started me on it and apparently I take after my paternal grandfather whose name I have, he too was a reader but mostly crime novels, he was a Police detective.

I am waiting for the arrival by mail of the latest book I ordered,  it is entitled, Rome: A history in seven sackings by Matthew Kneale.

I am still reading Josephus: The essential works by Josephus Flavius, which is the most precise description of Rome under the Flavian Dynasty as observed by the Jewish Courtier and ex-rebel Josephus. It is also considered a companion book to the Bible and the four gospels since Josephus lived in the era of the destruction of the Temple by Titus and the revolt against Roman rule in Palestine. Reading Josephus who writes about the Tribes of Israël and their conquest of the area known today as Israël and Palestine, I was reminded of another book by the great Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, The gospel according to Jesus Christ, a very funny book where God is portrayed as a wealthy Jewish Merchant with a sadistic streak. The God of the Old Testament was one who ordered anyone not worshipping him to be killed. Josephus is clear in his description that Yahveh, God tells the Jews it is quite ok and good to kill all their enemies because they do not belong to the chosen people. And Yahveh is always willing to forgive the people of Israël if they forget him momentarily because he has only one chosen people. Strange on again off again relationship. Josephus also describes what it is like to live at the Court of the Emperor of Rome on the Palatine Hill and observe the goings on.

The other book I am struggling to finish reading is by the late Dean of the French Academy Jean D’Ormesson, the book in French is entitled Je dirai malgré tout que cette vie fut belle. D’Ormesson died last December in Paris at the age of 92 and was given a National funeral, with full honours at Les Invalides in the presence of the French President and past presidents.

For many years I saw him on French television, he spoke very well, cultivated the art of conversation and knew almost every well known person in France or Europe.  The book is about his family and his life and all the great people he knew. Written in the style of a trial in a French Court were the Judge asks questions of the accused in this case D’Ormesson details how he lived. I find it tedious to read, the style is mondain and full of reference to his very famous friends, dinner parties, vacations in Italy or Greece and always accompanied by famous friends. He sailed through life without any great difficulty, it is a life on another level far removed from the mundane or the ordinary.

Jean Bruno Wladimir François de Paule Le Fèvre d’Ormesson was a French novelist born in 1925. He was the author of forty books, the director of Le Figaro from 1974 to 1979, and the Dean of the Académie française. He received the Grande Croix de la Légion d’Honneur and his family owned 2 Chateaux, though through financial difficulties managed to loose them but nonetheless always maintained a good address in fashionable Paris.

D’Ormesson was from an old French noble family, Grandfather and father both Ambassadors, went to the great schools, a life of privilege, D’Ormesson became Secretary-General of the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies at UNESCO. He was a conservative Catholic philosopher, a recipient of the Ordre National du Mérite for his achievements in civilian life.

What I always liked about him was his elegance and how he could speak so well with a wonderful vocabulary, he was a pleasure to hear, even when you disagreed with him, you still liked him. Even in this book there is a great generosity of spirit, the sign of a great mind. No doubt that he had some influence in France in the political and social sphere. With his death an era has closed.