Remarkable Encounters

It is 1931 and a wealthy young Englishman who has failed to distinguish himself at school is sent off by his parents to Munich to learn German.

It is 1931 and a wealthy young Englishman who has failed to distinguish himself at school is sent off by his parents to Munich to learn German. He begins his German sojourn by getting himself some wheels and going for a spin, taking as guide his 60-year-old host. John will later recall that he was driving very carefully, but it is a matter of record that a pedestrian is knocked down. The pedestrian is not really injured, amiably shakes hands with John and is soon on his way. Did you recognise him, John's host asks him. He did not. "Well, he is a politician with a party and he talks a lot. His name is Adolf Hitler."

As satirist Craig Brown retells it in an intriguing book called Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings, Scott-Ellis will spend much of his later life telling folks, "For a few seconds, perhaps, I held the history of Europe in my rather clumsy hands. He was only shaken up, but had I killed him, it would have changed the history of the world."

It does not fall upon most people to have a shot at changing the course of history in the span of a short encounter but many a meeting can leave a lasting imprint on one or both of the lives that crossed.

Essentially, this is what Brown does he gives a summary of the lives of two people refracted through a meeting and draws those lives in a compact pattern by hopping along from a meeting between A and B to one between B and C, further to C and D, so on. Some are scheduled encounters, some are chance run-ins, and some are almost fleeting. They do not necessarily move along chronologically. But each encounter is written in exactly 1,001 words. These numbers are highlighted baldly, and therefore boastingly, in an accompanying author's note, as too the contention that "everything in (the book) is documented".

... contd.

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