||[13 Dec 2008|08:01pm]
If you want a good chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream, you can order a Fürst Pückler. They'll bring you an ice cream in three flavors, but not just any three flavors, only chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. That's a Fürst Pückler.
When Archimboldi left his sister, he went on to Hamburg, where he planned to catch a direct flight to Mexico. Since the flight didn't leave until the next morning, he went for a walk around a park he didn't know, a big park full of trees and little paved paths along which women strolled with their children and young people skated and every so often students rode on bicycles, and he sat on the terrace of a bar, a terrace quite a distance from the bar itself, almost in the middle of the woods, and he began to read and ordered a sandwich and a beer and paid for them, then he ordered a Fürst Pückler and paid for it because on the terrace one had to pay immediately for anything one had.
The only other person there was three tables away (wrought-iron tables, heavy, elegant, and probably hard to steal), a gentleman of advanced age, though not as old as Archimboldi, reading a magazine and sipping a cappuccino. As Archimboldi was about to finish his ice cream, the gentleman asked whether he'd liked it.
"I did," said Archimboldi, and he smiled.
Drawn or encouraged by this friendly smile, the gentleman got up from his chair and sat down one table away.
"Allow me to introduce myself," he said. "My name is Alexander Fürst Pückler. The, how shall I say, creator of this ice cream," he said, "was a forebear of mine, a very brilliant Fürst Pückler, a great traveler, an enlightened man, whose main interests were botany and gardening. Of course, he thought, if he ever thought about it at all, that he would be remembered for some of the many small works he wrote and published, mostly travel chronicles, though not necessarily travel chronicles in the modern sense, but little books that are still charming today and, how shall I say, highly perceptive, anyway as perceptive as they could be, little books that made it seem as if the ultimate purpose of each of his trips was to examine a particular garden, gardens sometimes forgotten, forsaken, abandoned to their fate, and whose beauty my distinguished forebear knew how to find amid the weeds and neglect. His little books, despite their, how shall I say, botanical trappings, are full of clever observations and from them one gets a rather decent idea of the Europe of his day, a Europe often in turmoil, whose storms on occasion reached the shores of the family castle, located near Gorlitz, as you're likely aware. Of course, my forebear wasn't oblivious to the storms, no more than he was oblivious to the vicissitudes of, how shall I say, the human condition. And so he wrote and published, and in his own way, humbly but in fine German prose, he raised his voice against injustice. I think he had little interest in knowing where the soul goes when the body dies, although he wrote about that too. He was interested in dignity and he was interested in plants. About happiness he said not a word, I suppose because he considered it something strictly private and perhaps, how shall I say, treacherous or elusive. He had a great sense of humor, although some passages of his books contradict me there. And since he wasn't a saint or even a brave man, he probably did think about posterity. The bust, the equestrian statue, the folios preserved forever in a library. What he never imagined was that he would be remembered for lending his name to a combination of three flavors of ice cream. That I can assure you. So what do you think?"
"I don't know what to think," said Archimboldi.
"No one remembers the botanist Fürst Pückler now, no one remembers the model gardener, no one has read the writer. But everyone at some moment has tasted a Fürst Pückler, which is best and most pleasing in spring and fall."
"Why not in summer?" asked Archimboldi.
"Because in summer it can be cloying. Ices are best in summer, not ice cream."
Suddenly the park lights came on, although there was a second of total darkness, as if someone had tossed a black blanket over parts of Hamburg.
The gentleman sighed, he must have been about seventy, and then he said:
"A mysterious legacy, don't you think?"
"You're right, I do," said Archimboldi as he got up and took his leave of the descendant of Fürst Pückler.
Soon afterward he left the park and the next morning he was on his way to Mexico.