I’ve long since wondered at the difference between jealousy and envy. I can feel it, but I find it difficult to describe. I’ve read that envy is a two-person situation, for example, you have something I lack; and jealousy is a three-person thing, whereby I’m afraid you will steal someone (or something) from me.
Looking back over my life to date, jealousy paid me a brief visit just once back when I was in school. Laughable really. And completely forgotten about until I reread an old diary a couple of years back. Envy though is a more regular caller. It usually doesn’t stay very long but there are those occasions when it pops in, uninvited, and makes life a tad uncomfortable.
Right now, I’m envious of Luke McCallin. I never knew the man existed until a couple of weeks ago, when the Internet in all its glory decided we should meet. Obviously something in my Google search patterns made it think that I needed to get to know him.
Born in Oxford, McCallin has worked as a humanitarian aid worker for the UN and now lives in France with his wife and two kids. Back in 2013, he introduced the world to Gregor Reinhardt, the protagonist in his first novel, The Man from Berlin.
McCallin describes Reinhardt as a German intelligence officer, a former Berlin detective chased out of the police by the Nazis. Haunted by what he has seen, tortured by recurring nightmares, wearing the uniform of an army he despises, he has ever fewer reasons to live. The book, set in Yugoslavia, tells us of his struggle to fight for the few convictions he has left. As he works for the German Army, we glimpse the inner workings of his conscience and the tentative hold he has on a reality that is both horrific and compelling. One reviewer calls Reinhardt ‘that most elusive literary contradiction: the good German wearing a Nazi uniform’.
My history classes missed out on the Ustaše. I don’t ever remember hearing about them before or else what I heard was so awful that I chose to forget. They were a right bunch of Bsd*&S&Ds. There was a lot of competition in those days to see who could be the most inhuman of humans and this Croatian fascist movement was definitely in the running. Through Reinhardt, McCallin has closed a gap in my education.
So, green with envy after finishing McCallin’s first novel, I spent quite a while marvelling at how completely I had bought into Reinhardt. He’s on my list of fictional characters I would happily invite to dinner. Although McCallin is a skilled novelist. I was a little worried that the sequel, The Pale House, might not live up to my expectations but if anything, it surpassed them. The Ustaše can see the writing on the wall and are making their post-war plans. Men, quite normal just six years previously, have turned into soulless embodiments of evil. The mind boggles at the scope of the atrocities and the randomness of the cruelty. At one stage, I was quite shocked by the hatred I felt. The thought that there might be circumstances in which I might actually condone any sort of cruelty really upset me. But such is the power of McCallin’s writing and such is the credibility of his characters.
And although green with envy at McCallin’s ability to write, I’m grateful for the education. A tad nonplussed that Google seems to be doing my thinking for me, I’m grateful too for the introduction to Gregor Reinhardt. The third in the series is due out in December, so you have time to catch up.
The Grateful series is now in its fifth year. For more on how it started, see the original post.