Friday, 3 May 2019

Victor Hugo's Montblanc Meisterstuck

 There was a time, in my childhood, when, perhaps I had been raised among books and booksellers, I dreamed of becoming a novelist. The root of my literary ambitions ... lay in a prodigious piece of craftsmanship and precision that was exhibited in a fountain pen shop on Calle Anselmo Clave, just behind the Military Government building. The object of my devotion, a plush black pen, adorned with heaven knows how many refinements and flourishes, presided over the shop window as if it were the crown jewels. A baroque fantasy magnificently wrought in silver and gold that shone like the lighthouse at Alexandria, the nib was a wonder in its own right. When my father and I went out for a walk, I wouldn't stop pestering him until he took me to see the pen. My father declared that it must be, at the very least, the pen of an emperor. I was secretly convinced that wish such a marvel one would be able to write anything, from novels to encyclopaedias, and letters whose supernatural power would surpass any postal limitations. Written with that pen, they would surely reach the most remote corners of the world, even that unknowable place to which my father said my mother had gone and from where she would never return.
One day we decided to go into the shop and inquire about the blessed artefact. It turned out to be the queen of all fountain pens, a Montblanc Meisterstuck in a numbered series, that had once belonged, or so the shop attendant assured us, to Victor Hugo himself. From that gold nib, we were informed, had sprung the manuscript of Les Miserables.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind, 2001

Victor Hugo was against steel pens and allegedly swore never to use "these needles." However, he did use lead pencils.


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