Thursday, December 27, 2007

Alfred Perlès - Obituary

Alfred Perlès died on January 27, 1990, in Somerset, England. His obituary was published in The Guardian (London) three days later, on January 30th. Perles--who went by the name Alfred Bartlet while living in the U.K.--was employed as a messenger by the Reuters news agency in the 1960s. While there, he befriended a "senior sub-editor" named Hubert Nicholson (who'd been employed with Reuters since 1945) [*1]. It is Nicholson who wrote the Perles biography for The Guardian.

Drawing from information in this published obituary, I've updated my posted biography of Alfred Perlès.

"His was an extraordinary life. He must be one of the last men to claim the distinction of serving the Kaiser in the first world war and serving the King in the second. Half French and half Austrian, he was reared in Vienna, made his way to Paris as a Czech national, and began publishing memoirs there. He reached England in 1938. In an amusing and touching passage in his book, Round Trip, he has described the moment when he realised he was destined to become a true Englishman. Walking down Oxford Street he suddenly said to himself: 'I am dying for a cup of tea.' He added" 'With every sip I took, England became clearer to me.' And he goes on: 'Once more I have struck root.'"

"He was a wonderful talker, a wise and witty correspondent and a lovable friend. Small, rubicund, cheerful, eloquent in several languages, he cherished a personal mystical philosophy and firmly believed he would survive death somewhere and somehow. Always, he was sustained by his sense of humour."

Besides the facts of Perles' life (which have been incorporated into by biography posting), Nicholson goes on to explain why Perles took a position as Messenger for Reuters and not Journalist: "he chose the lowliest job that would give him bread and butter [...] He did this on principle, to withhold himself from world affairs." Perles would have been in his 60s when delivering these messages. He was 92 years old when he died.

*1 - Although it is Nicholson himself who states that the two men met at Reuters, the Alfred Perles Collection contains a letter from Perles to Nicholson from 1956. Perhaps they only met in person in the 1960s.