thought it was all bullshit: she couldn’t even tell the difference between a pigeon and a seagull. When they walked together in the countryside she would mock him a little if he followed animal trails or pointed to rabbit tracks at the edge of a field. He once made a trap from copper wire and got up before dawn to see if he had caught a rabbit. Poaching - an infringement of article four of the 1882 Hunting Code - was a risky business, especially in his position. He marinated his catch in red wine and served it up with potatoes and apple sauce just like in the good old days. She enjoyed it but thought it was a lot of work for something you could buy frozen from the supermarket. Such reactions convinced Albert that he belonged to a generation that had “continued to live the nineteenth century in the twentieth”. He had no regrets whatsoever.
As with so many things in his life, his desire to pass on “knowledge” to the younger generation was the result of a sort of superstition that fascinated him to the core - astrology. A few years earlier he had invited a renowned Dutch astrologer of Indian origin to prepare his horoscope. The man had discovered that Chiron exercised an enormous influence on Aries, his star sign. Albert was particularly proud of this fact, since Chiron, the centaur from Greek mythology, was a creature with a great deal of intuitive knowledge it desired to pass on to future generations. Louise, a Gemini, was a poor student and that saddened him. He saw her as a typical example of the postWar soft generation, who had never had to make an effort, took everything for granted and struggled to appreciate most things. His friend Lev Hirschhorn, a diamond merchant from Antwerp who had been raised on a kibbutz, put it like this: “They’re children without real experience, not like we used to be back then. We were forced to sleep with a sten gun under our pillows.”
Louise could spend hours on end in an armchair, smoking and browsing through fashion magazines, with pop music playing so loud it was impossible to hold a conversation. Fetching a frozen dinner from the deep freeze and tossing it in the microwave was her only domestic chore, that and taking care of the horses. Albert always had a good laugh at the way she groomed them. He knew the right way to go about it, and had even taken the trouble to learn how to hot-shoe horses at the blacksmith’s. Cold-shoeing, which was now the fashion, was beyond him, but he thought the purchase of a forge for two horses was taking things a little too far.
Once the oak was behind them, Soliman was completely under his control. They approached a straight path roughly half a mile long where they usually picked up the pace. He knew that Soliman was faster than Yamma, who had once suffered an ankle injury as a racehorse. He always let Louise win. He had once tried to convince her that full gallop with thoroughbreds was nothing very exciting, and that it gave the horse too much power over the rider, but she refused to listen. Everything changed, of course, after her horse bolted one day, something he had only witnessed twice in his life.
The horses knew exactly where they were going to be spurred into action and started to trot in advance, a fault he was willing to overlook. He tried to calm Soliman, but Louise smacked Yamma with her crop and yelled “Yahoo!” She disappeared like an arrow from a bow.
In spite of his seventy-six years, Ernst Jacobi still maintained a leading position in the Swiss banking establishment. He was the son of the renowned Paul Jacobi, president of the Credit Suisse from 1938 to 1971, a man who bore considerable responsibility for the secret laundering of Nazi gold. The “leftist” Swiss press, to the extent that such a thing existed in Switzerland, referred to him as a Gnome, a member of the extremely conservative, anti-Semitic, profoundly religious cast of German-speaking Swiss nationals, who had once been described by Dürrenmatt