A lot about fathers

So I’m staring at the two books that have just dropped from the pile (a tall one) onto the floor, and they are titled: Faith of My Fathers (left) and Dreams from My Father (right).

“This boy is really doing his civic homework during an important election,” you may be saying. Actually, no. I’m doing research for (no surprises) my book.

You see, these two–Obama and McCain–made me think of my main characters, Hannibal and Scipio. No, it’s not because Obama is half African (I’ve explained here why I don’t think that Hannibal was “African” in that sense). No, it’s not because McCain has “something Roman about him”, as a friend of mine said, referring to McCain’s martial honor code. And it’s only a little bit because both pairs were formidable rivals and opponents.

It’s because Hannibal and Scipio, if they had written books, might well have given them the exact same titles.

Hannibal lived his life as he did, one could argue, because he inherited a “dream from his father,” Hamilcar. Hamilcar had fought the Romans in the First Punic War, and felt humiliated when Rome won, and wanted revenge. He even made Hannibal, when the boy was nine, swear an oath to keep the “faith of his father”. (100falcons has a nice write-up of it here.)

Scipio could have said the same. He had the same name as his father, Publius Cornelius Scipio, and fought in his father’s army against Hannibal, when Hannibal seemed invincible. His father and uncle later died in battle against Hannibal’s brothers, Hasdrubal and Mago. Scipio, too, was keeping the “faith of his fathers” when he rose at a precocious age to become Rome’s leader and last hope.

So, fathers clearly matter. Or perhaps only for sons? For Amy Tan, it seems to have been her mother who was the important early influencer.

Lots to ponder. Lots to ponder. The role of background in life choices, goal-setting, Success, failure….

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4 thoughts on “A lot about fathers

  1. Thanks for the link to 100falcons. I have two blogs and seem to be unable to post comments except as 100swallows–my name at the other one, which is about art.

    I hope you will remember Winston Churchill when you write your book. His important father didn’t think much of HIM but realizing that certainly increased Winston’s ambition. There is no one who can teach you more than Churchill. Get hold of My Early Life, his autobiography.
    In another comment I compared Carlos Baker to Boswell, but now let’s say his book is more like George Painter’s biography of Proust.

  2. Churchill is a great idea, for many reasons. The father. The devastating failures (WWI, interwar) of his early career, the way he turned them into Triumphs, the way the Triumphs turned into ignominious dismissal right after WWII…. Talk about reversals!
    I’ll get My Early Life. Can you recommend another biography, by somebody else? There is too much written about him.
    BTW, Carlos Baker is now sitting on top of the pile in front of me…

  3. I can’t think of any right now. I’m more of a reader of autobiographies; and the ones I like best are probably no good as success and failure studies: Ruskin, Cellini, Tolstoy, Hernan Cortes’ Letters about the conquest of Mexico. Actually—that reminds me of two good biographies by Salvador Madariaga: one on Hernan Cortes and the other on Christopher Columbus. There’s Ulysses Grant’s book. I haven’t seen Truman’s memoirs in a long time but I liked them when I read them. I don’t remember a thing from Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage (also read years ago)—I suspect it is pretty mediocre, though it may give you some ideas. I’m sure you could do better. Gold Meir’s My Life makes very interesting reading—she’s your success story.

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