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QUANTZ'S gaze chivvied his son; then roved away. He busied himself with earning their daily bread. And he had been in luck where so many millions vanished, or survived on starvation rations provided by the victors.

The British felt confidence in Michael Quantz. Wolfi perceived that. He kept his eyes trained on his father, observing his adaptation to the likings, customs and bias of the occupiers.

He discerned with relief the chameleon powers of this man. How suave he was, how self-deprecatingly sure in his skill to stay afloat.

Father taught Wolfi how to pronounce the victorious tongue so as to speak better English than the English. Mastery of nuance is the key, he explained, for they judge you by your well-spokenness. That's how they tell which class you come from. Make yourself seem to lack an origin. Don't make the mistake of swallowing your words or talking down your nose, as their officers do, he instructed Wolfi: speak with a purity that expresses reverence for the tongue of Shakespeare. They will like that.

Don't kowtow: they are hypocritical enough to dislike the display of subservience.

Equally, don't strut about: bad form in foreigners.

Appeal to their sense of fair play. For their world is a cricket pitch. Be prepared to play the sporting loser.

Learn the subtleties of their untranslatable art of diffident irony.

Wolfi liked the cabin they had in the woods above Eutin. Later they built a cottage there, with their own hands. Those hands were sensitive, mobile. Wolfi learned the flute, cello and piano. At school he toed the line; made few friends and no enemies. History stopped in 1900.

That was that. Henry I, Frederick the Great, Bismarck, then really nothing much. But the German people had suffered much, old Schmidt allowed it to be known. They had been sacrificed by, he whispered, a certain hooknosed race.

> The Element of Water by Stevie Davies is published by Parthian in the Library of Wales series CONTINUES TOMORROW


The Element of Water by Stevie Davies

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 8, 2019
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