Conrad Black Book Club: A Matter of Principle, Chapter 9 (wherein Black falls and bruises his knee)

Conrad Black Book Club: A Matter of Principle, Chapter 9 (wherein Black falls and bruises his knee)


Only in the distorted world of Conrad Black does moving become an ordeal on par with the Hundred Years War or the Rwandan genocide. He admires Barbara Amiel’s “sad and heroic efforts” as they pack up their 800 boxes to ship them to Toronto. Who knew renting a U-Haul truck could be so poetic?

Naturally, things get even weirder when the pair arrives home: Barbara seeks comfort with a life-size cardboard cutout of Black that she used to use when he couldn’t attend dinner parties, and Elton John gives her a jewellery box adorned with a pavé diamond, telling her she’s a star.

Meanwhile, Black is evicted from his offices at 10 Toronto St. When he arrives to clear out his humble belongings, he finds all his precious correspondence has been confiscated, including all his notes from every prime minister since, like, Laurier or something (except Kim Campbell, since she doesn’t really count). While naively transporting the remaining boxes to his car, he is surreptitiously videotaped and then slapped with the threat of contempt for obstructing evidence. Oh, such wacky hijinks.

But not all is lost: Black accepts an offer from the National Post to write a column on foreign affairs and begins to contemplate his next book, a biography of Richard Nixon. Also, at about the same time, a media type finally gives his case what Black considers to be a proper journalistic treatment—that is, he takes his side—and that media type is Ezra Levant.

So, with the looming possibility of a criminal case—not to mention that Conrad bruised his knee on a bike ride, a true family tragedy—the Blacks decide to make the most of the money they don’t have and visit England and the south of France. Apparently, late July and August is the height of “the season,” a phrase we thought died with Jane Austen. Back in Europe, they gallivant with Elton John (again) and his Scarborough-born hubby David Furnish, Lord Peter Carrington and Jacob Rothschild, who deign to be seen in public with the Baron.

In the words of the Lord:

On his return home: “It was a retreat to Toronto, to a house I loved in a city and a country that hadn’t been especially congenial as I staggered along the gauntlet of the legal enforcers and jackal press of both countries (and overseas).”

On his anticipation of a criminal case: “I would be upholding vital principles, I told myself—honest capitalism and impartial law, both of which had been degraded beyond recognition in this ghastly sequence of outrages.”

On an excuse to use the word cockahoop: ““Let the press, as it did, go cockahoop celebrating my financial demise.”

On (absurdly) comparing Barbara’s sadness to that of the Jews in World War II: “She reminded me of a well-known photo I showed her of European Jews during the Second World War being marched along the streets carrying their small bundles of belongings. Behind one such family walked a little girl, her body language summing up utter despair.”

On David Radler’s attitude, described in a curious way: “He was a pessimist, and more than in the generic Jewish way.”