We’re in a funeral parlour in Belgrade and it’s July 2005. A bald man with a beard and glasses is signing a false name. He’s stealing a body.
The man is a film director, writer, paramilitary leader, and political figure. He’s a devout Orthodox Christian. The man whose corpse he’s stealing was not.
Dragoš Kalajić was a painter and full-time conspiracy theorist whose journey into Serbian nationalism turned him pagan. He was a familiar face in the media of both Serbia and Italy, a noticeable presence on art gallery walls. Cancer ate up his throat and put him in a pine box at the age of sixty-two.
He might appreciate this bit of grave robbery by a former political disciple. But probably not.
It was a beautiful right cross, straight to the jaw. The big Italian folded up in the middle of the ring. He got up and fell to his knees and got up again but he was swaying.
Yankee Stadium was full of 64,000 people tonight. A scrum of men in suits and ties and hats plus a few women who didn’t mind getting blood on their mink wraps, all roaring down from their seats at a boxing ring the size of a postage stamp. The Italian-Americans were telling Primo Carnera to stay on his feet and keep his guard up, their black hair glossy in the lights. African-Americans shouted at Joe Louis to finish him, Joe, finish him and shadow-boxed with whatever fist wasn’t holding a cigarette.
Commentators ringside talked fast into their microphones for the folks at home. Photographers popped off another bulb in cameras big as a box of groceries. Louis stalked a glassy Carnera around the ring.
In 1921 a young journalist from Illinois arrived in Paris with a loving wife and a suitcase of tyro manuscripts. Seven years soaking up the avant-garde teachings of Ezra Pound and James Joyce turned him into the best prose stylist of his generation. Ernest Hemingway returned to America with a fresh literary approach, a book contract, and a younger, richer wife.
Most readers still associate Ernest Hemingway with the French capital, an image cemented by his posthumous memoir A Moveable Feast. Guides do walking excursions round his old haunts for the tourists.
Richard Owen has other ideas. In a new book he makes the case that Italy, not France, was the place closest to Hemingway’s heart.