In 1988, as part of the thousand-year celebrations of the city of Odense, I was invited to translate the sumptuously illustrated catalogue of a major COBRA exhibition held in Odense ‘COBRA er mit spejl’ (COBRA is my mirror).
I was duly invited to the opening ceremonies and, while wandering around before the opening in my clean shirt and new pair of trousers (since the Queen Mother would be present and I could deduct 25% of them in tax, i.e. half a leg) I came across a large, fine serigraphy by Corneille (Le monde des fables 148cm x 275cm, 1977). I remarked to the small man with a handsome white beard beside me how excellent it was. ‘Only a little English,’ he replied haltingly. He spoke with a Dutch accent, it seemed to me, so I said ‘Bloody good piece of work!’ to him in Dutch. He smiled and moved on. ‘Do you know who that was?’ someone else asked me? ‘No.’ ‘That was Corneille.’
It must have amused him, for he signed my copy of the catalogue later. He signed the piece of paper he was looking at back in 1948. Life begins at forty.