On the homepage, we offer a piece on Hernando de Soto, the Peruvian economist and “global activist.” I talked to him about three things, basically: his life, his latest documentary (which is about the Arab world), and some of the big questions having to do with capitalism and socialism. De Soto is certainly one of the most intelligent, best educated, most imaginative people I have ever experienced. He is also a gentleman — a bit of a throwback, a caballero. There is a touch of nobility about him.
I begin my piece as follows: “Sitting here listening to Hernando de Soto, I think, ‘How am I going to avoid describing him as a “force of nature”?’ That is one of the laziest clichés. But de Soto is, I’m afraid, a force of nature. He seems to be thinking constantly, and the thoughts come out in great waves of speech.”
Years ago, I was writing a piece about Martha Argerich, the Argentinean-born pianist, and I was determined not to call her a force of nature, because that’s what everyone did. I wound up saying something like, “Everyone calls her a ‘force of nature’” — which was cheating, because it allowed me to describe her as a force of nature while distancing myself from cliché-mongering others.
Memo to self: Don’t be doin’ that (at least not too often or too obviously).