Wow! Yesterday evening turned out to be one of those magical evenings that would be impossible to make better with all the planning in the world.
So the Americans had invited me to have lentil soup with them. When I came home after the French conversation group they both started speaking French to me: "Bonsoir, c'était bien?" and so on. It was so funny. Turned out they had lived in Quebec, that's how they knew French.
During the day they had been to Gamla Uppsala and the man told me he'd been so fascinated by a painting in the church that reminded him of a scene in Bergman's The Seventh Seal. I told him Bergman was from Uppsala, and who knows, maybe this painting had inspired that scene? He was absolutely delighted about this information.
He has this very charming way of being absolutely delighted about many things. Like the heating in my bathroom floor: "Maria, that floor... *big smile* it's just amazing!"
Finally the son arrives and we have the lentil soup, that is so good! They drink a little wine. I ask them about their work, physician and lawyer. They show me pictures from where they live - so beautiful! The son knows some Swedish and is making funny comments with a really cute accent all the time.
Then the Russian guest arrives and the American man calls out: "Have some lentil soup! There is wine too!"
"Why all this?", she asks.
"We were hungry!", he answers.
So she finds a chair and sits down at the kitchen table with us and has some soup too. I bring some Swedish, thin bread I've just bought fresh at the market, and for dessert some cloudberry jam and ice cream. Then I mostly enjoy listening to the conversation. The Russian woman is doing research on Georgian diplomacy and the Americans want to know her view on Putin. It turns out the American man's dad worked with the missile system and had a lot of contacts with Russians. But when the son for a moment leaves the room (to go browse through my musical notes?), he mimes to the Russian woman: "Oh, I just realize why we've thought so much about Russia - he had a Russian girlfriend. But we will not speak of this now."
And then they talk about Russian literature, and their opinions on The Brothers Karamazov. The Russian woman doesn't like Dostoyevsky so much, it's too depressing to read such things, especially given the current political situation. It's understandable.
Then the American brings up The Master and Margarita. He finds the book completely crazy. "Or I felt I'd go crazy if I finished it. Does it really have an end?", he asks and sounds like if he is literally suggesting that the book might never end.
Then we make tea and everyone chooses their favourite herbal tea. "Is that tilleul?", the son asks me with a bright smile. He seems to have inherited his fathers charm and appreciation of details. His mum asks what it means. "Oh, it's this delicious tea from the south of France. Linden. Can I have some?"
I ask the Russian woman for some recommendations of contemporary Russian authors, and she writes down Sorokin, that I've read, and a few others, that I haven't heard of, that sounds promising. I'm thinking I should really do this more, ask my guests about contemporary book recommendations from their countries. After the Japanese authors, I could read some Russian ones.
"This is one of the best nights I've had in a long time", says the American man, "thanks to you two."
I agree, and thank him for inviting me. When we take care of the dishes the Russian woman ask me what I do in life and I tell her I used to be a political writer. "Oh, what a brilliant team here tonight", she says with a smile. Indeed.
It's like the story of the stone soup. What's the recipe for an evening like this? All you need is a bag of lentils. And maybe just a little bit of...