Sunday Brunch with the World Maker
Novel by Stefan Stenudd
Treating himself to the luxurious Sunday brunch of the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the author is joined by a young stranger. At first, their conversation is all about the author, his experiences and thoughts on life. But as the brunch progresses it becomes evident that the stranger has a lot to say, too. The conversation slips into the mysterious, soon to burst beyond the realm of possibility.
Stefan Stenudd is a Swedish author, historian of ideas, and aikido instructor. He writes to kill time, or to understand it.
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Evasive Love(Excerpt from the book)
His smile was replaced by an expression getting close to sadness.
“Sorry to disappoint you, but yes.” He waited a moment for me to ponder his answer, before he continued, “What’s more, so do you.”
My eyebrows curved and struggled to meet above my nose. His smile did not return, although I probably looked rather funny in my confusion.
I wanted to object, but my confusion made me dumb. Me believe in love?
I didn’t even like the word – well, in English. It is short, and it’s both a verb and a noun, so people say it far too often, diluting it of any sincerity or profound meaning. In the English language it has become as common and bland as if it were a preposition.
Swedish, my native tongue, is different. The noun is kärlek, which is a compound word, meaning ‘dear game,’ as if but a careless amusement played by childish minds. Sweet and pleasant.
The verb is älska, an old word with a different etymology. It just means what it means, but it sounds so much more attractive than the English counterpart. It starts with an open and inviting vowel, sounding sort of like the ‘a’ in ‘any.’ As one’s tongue moves from ‘l’ to ‘s’ it feels like preparing for cunnilingus. The short and rather hard ‘ka’ at the end is where the action begins.
The word is also used for the act of making love, of course, but it brings this sensation to every use of the word. It is very erotic in nature, when pronounced, whereas ‘love’ is plump, as sudden and disappointing as premature ejaculation.
The old traditional Swedish noun for intercourse, sadly not much in use anymore, is älskog. The ‘o’ is long and rich, sort of like in ‘who,’ and the ‘g’ forms a very gentle ending, as if urging us to continue forever. It’s a word for making life one of making love.
“You are indeed a man of letters,” Cael interrupted my thoughts and smiled sort of graciously.
I found myself blushing. Thinking of the mere words – in Swedish – had made my temperature rise, also in my groin.
I had no idea of what his comment referred to, since he was the one speaking also before that remark. But I was happy to snap out of thoughts that were about to arouse me beyond my ability to hide it.
“Love is a word, as we have both stated,” Cael continued. “Some of the definitions floating around in society might be way off. Surely. Others are absolutely absurd. But there is something behind it, something real and utterly powerful.”
He raised his index finger, which made him look like Leonardo da Vinci’s last painting, portraying John the Baptist pointing sort of seductively towards heaven.
I knew that painting very well, and loved it. I’d even seen it at the Louvre museum in Paris. One could step right up to it, even touch it if one dared, contrary to how extremely protected La Gioconda, the Mona Lisa, was at the same museum. John’s gesture and smile suggested high and low at the same time – sanctity and sin. The one cannot exist without the other.
I had made my own version of that painting, when I started getting serious with oil on canvas in my early twenties. I had to, although I knew that there was nothing I could add to Leonardo’s original. It was a fan painting of sorts. Homage. I was a huge fan. I still am.
Looking right at Cael and his gesture, I realized that in my eyes he now looked exactly like that Leonardo painting, as if John had appeared in front of me, taking Cael’s place. Bare chest and all.
I had to blink hard a couple of times, before I saw Cael in his white shirt and black suit again.
That was no shock to me, at all. My eyes had played such tricks on me before, when I reminisced or wandered off in daydreams. Once, I had even seen another face on someone I was making love to at the time – actually the face of the person I would have wanted there instead. It was so clear, that other face, I stopped momentarily in complete amazement.
Of course, I kept it to myself.
My thoughts were interrupted by Cael bursting into one of his xylophone laughs. He dropped his hand.
“What?” I asked.
He shook his head, still smiling.
“That something behind the word love,” he continued his explanation, “is what all the emotions you mentioned before have in common. So, it’s not that love doesn’t exist while the other feelings do. They are all the same, essentially, and love is as good a name as any for it.”
I was not sure that he had convinced me, but I was moved by the beauty of the words – in combination with the beauty of the one who uttered them.
We were silent for quite a while, not even eating. We just looked at each other.
It was peaceful. The noise around us got muffled, as if coming from a stereo on which the volume was lowered.
“So, have you loved?” I finally managed to ask, sort of breaking the spell. The noise around us returned. “With your looks, I can’t imagine that you haven’t had plenty of opportunities.”
“All the time.” He repeated, with emphasis on both words and pausing slightly between them, “All time.”
Then he laughed and refilled our glasses.
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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist, an historian of ideas and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.