by cheri sabraw
Like a skilled Navajo weaver, author Andreas Kluth has woven the stories of history and of those people whose lives changed it, into a marvelous storyteller’s blanket, one rich with detail, color, and emotion.
His book Hannibal and Me, published in January of this year, took me a month to read. It’s not long or complicated or boring or verbose: it’s deep and each individual story–be it of Eleanor Roosevelt’s heartbreak or Ernest Shackleton’s perilous journey to Antarctica–relates to the larger one–ours–the Me in the title.
Each story offers the reader an opportunity. We can sit in front of the sculpture Grief, as Eleanor Roosevelt did after learning of Franklin’s infidelity to her, and cry our eyes out or sit on a ice flow and do nothing, as Shackleton determined his crew must do when his ship aptly named Endurance, could go no further.
This book is not meant to be read in one long day. Doing so risks missing the nuances in each story Kluth tells.
He tells his own story, of his search for meaning, a little word he would not find working as an investment banker in a cubicle in London.
He expands the story from himself to his Uncle Lulu, former Chancellor of West Germany Ludwig Erhard, a quietly effective economist- turned- leader whose trust in others would lead to his retreat from public office.
Kluth offers the reader a wide variety of personalities: from author Amy Tan to psychiatrist Carl Jung and from Tiger Woods to Albert Einstein, to name just a few of the people just like us in many respects, people whose life strategies either enhanced or detracted from their experiences and their historical legacies.
The umbrella sheltering all of these little stories and to which they all relate (this is the genius of this book) is the big story Kluth tells, one that captivated him as a child: the story of the magnificent Carthaginian general Hannibal who crossed the Alps with elephants! Hannibal, with all of his father’s legacy and personal courage, fails. Two Roman generals of different generations–Fabius and Scipio–employ their own tactics in finishing off Hannibal for the Romans. How did this happen? Why?
Kluth, the West Coast Correspondent for the Economist Magazine, is a natural storyteller. If his aim was to bring the story of Hannibal, Fabius, and Scipio into our historical and emotional hearts and thus, link their triumphs and disasters to our own, he has succeeded.